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A gesture is what it was when DC's Mayor, Vincent Gray, was arrested this Monday on Capitol Hill. The Mayor, joined by several City Council members, was protesting the budget deal which prevents DC from spending its own money on abortion and establishes a school voucher program. The gesture was powerful and certainly attracted the attention of national media, but it does not go nearly far enough.
If Mayor Gray truly wants to lead the way towards statehood for the District, right now offers a moment of opportunity. With the country watching, thanks to Monday's arrest, DC's leaders have a chance to put up a serious fight, but that will require far more than a simple protest and some minor civil disobedience. Mayor Gray needs to send a clear message to the federal government: As long as Congress has the authority to run DC, the nation's capital will continue to be used as a political football, thrown around haphazardly as a negotiating card by people who have no connection to the city outside of Capitol Hill.
If the Mayor wants to send that message, he can shut it all down. Go home. Ask the City Council to go home. Ask all city servants to go home. If the federal government wants to run the city, let them. These people on Capitol Hill could care less about the status of home rule in DC. Tell them it is time to start caring. Tell them they went too far when they sold the District to settle their arguments.
Unless Mayor Gray and the City Council act, act big, and act now, their arrest was nothing more than a well-played gesture.