What: Consumer advocate Ralph Nader and citizen leaders hold news conference to announce a limited general strike to support D.C. Statehood
When: Monday, July 2, 2012, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Public Citizen headquarters –1600 20th St. N.W., Washington DC
Contact: Ralph Nader 202-387-8030
(Washington, D.C.) – Ralph Nader and nine D.C. area-based national and local citizen groups will announce on Monday, July 2 an upcoming limited general strike to protest the colonial status of the District of Columbia and to support D.C. statehood. Several prominent nonprofit leaders will speak at the news conference.
Ralph Nader, Center for Study of Responsive Law
Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen
Ilir Zherka, Executive Director, DC Vote
Blair Bowie, Democracy Advocate, US PIRG
Brittany Melson, Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Anise Jenkins, Stand Up for Democracy
Elise Helgesen, Democracy Fellow, Fair Vote
Natale Lino Stracuzzi, DC Statehood Green Party
Opening Remarks by Ralph Nader
Before introducing the representatives of the participating organizations to make their statements, I want to state the context for this limited general strike, as described in the Pledge that they are taking: to protest the colonial status of the District of Columbia, whose residents are prohibited from forming a state and having two voting Senators and one Representative in the Congress, by postponing arrival at work for 15 minutes on July 9, 2012, 30 minutes on August 1, 2012, 45 minutes on September 10, 2012 and one hour on October 1, 2012, and use that time and other time to expand our circle of solidarity on statehood for the District of Columbia among our friends, relatives and co-workers.
As the groups here know so well, the small hard core behind full democracy for the District of Columbia, has tried in many ways over many years to get the attention of the Congress and the White House. They have petitioned, marched, picketed, rallied, litigated and conducted many meetings with the powers-that-be. Mayor Vincent Gray, a strong statehood proponent, was arrested during a protest at Congress last year, along with other citizens on that day. They have received assurances during Presidential and Congressional campaigns only to find them ring hollow after the elections.
They have appealed to their fellow Americans in the fifty states to flex their political empathy toward their members of Congress. Still no official action has commenced.
After the remarks by this unique combination of national civic organizations, and seasoned local groups that have been on the ramparts for D.C. statehood, I will offer some concluding explanatory remarks. These will focus on the why, and whither of this latest approach to address a truly disgraceful hypocrisy by a national government that lectures other nations about their deficient democratic processes – a government that cannot even assure the honest counting of votes in our country and the proper facilitation of the right-to-vote and the right-to-run.
At this point, each representative made their presentations, followed by Nader’s concluding remarks:
Concluding, explanatory remarks by Ralph Nader
Compared with past, tougher, more direct actions for D.C. statehood, this limited general strike may appear excessively modest. But it touches on the fact that the vast majority of District residents either do not know, do not care or are unwilling to participate in more demanding kinds of protest. Yet we all should recognize that this vast majority must learn to care and must learn to act at various levels of visibility, including dramatic ones, if the goal of D.C. statehood or full democracy is going to resonate on Capitol Hill, the White House and around the country. Expanding turnout at public rallies requires tapping into this silent vast majority, including the students in D.C. schools and universities who are examined regularly in courses on democracy and politics.
One way to do this is to make it exceptionally easy to exercise a protest and spend the time contacting others. The more people start asking what this tactic is all about in their workplace, the more conversations are generated around civic self-respect, and about what are the deprivations for the people here in the District that stem from this degrading colonial status. More people begin wondering about the sacrifices made by District residents overseas and when they come home they are told to shut up and remain colonized. Some people will join the ranks of the existing hard core. More people may take from this pilot project a second more intense round of protest to other employers and employees in the labor, business and large non-profit communities. More people may start thinking up other new ideas or finding additional material resources that would contribute to a growing momentum without which a critical mass cannot be reached. We need some super-rich Washingtonians to help lead the way.
Low barriers to entry for civic and political movements are as important as weighty strategies pursued by fuller-time activists who deserve to look behind them and see a rising tide streaming in many creative directions and touch points. Expanding this limited general strike idea is one such low barrier to entry.
Remarks from News Conference
Zherka – This shouldn’t be the first or last time we do this [have a news conference]. We need more than a limited general strike to be more bold about this push and campaign.
Helgesen – every voice and every person throughout this country should have an equal vote.
Stracuzzi – This District of Columbia is taken advantage of. We need to rally on the mall and get the NAACP, National Urban League, League of Hispanic Voters, etc to show that DC isn’t being respected. We need a day of emancipation every year to rally around and to symbolize. Let’s put together a rally.
Melson – Without the right representation we can’t take proper care of our local environment. There are a lot of toxins in this environment and CHEJ should be more deeply involved.
Jenkins – This is not a new campaign. We welcome people to the fight. It’s the struggle for the right. It’s a government by the people and for the people. Let’s make DC the 51st state of the U.S. It’s time to break the chain of oppression. Free DC, DC now, and strike for the District of Columbia.
Bowie – All of these folks are ready to join together and engage the PIRG network [around the country] to build a large campaign to bring voting rights and statehood status to DC.
Nader – compared with past action, this may appear modest. The vast majority of DC residents must learn to care and act at various levels of advocacy. Let’s make it exceptionally easy to organize a protest [in favor of DC statehood]. Let’s get 535 citizen committees made up of five members each who specialize in each senator/representative. They monitor this elected politician on all professional levels and act as a people’s oversight committee. This is direct specialization. The closer you get to the persona of the members of Congress, the more likely you’ll get a vote in favor of DC statehood.
Limited General Strike Dates
Show up late to work. Communicate with your friends and colleagues in the time that you’ll be late.
- Monday, July 9, 15 minutes late
- Thursday, August 1, 30 minutes late
- Monday, September 10, 45 minutes late
- Monday, October 1, one hour late