DC Mayor Gray Arrested: Finally a Leader In Washington DC Finds His Shoes

Barack Obama famously promised his supporters and voting base in 2007

And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.

But, of course, now that Mr. Obama is safely ensconced in Washington DC at the oh so elite address on Pennsylvania Avenue, neither he nor his shoes are anywhere to be found when when workers and “their right to organize and collectively bargain” are under not just attack, but siege, in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other locales.

Today, however, we see what real Democratic leadership in Washington DC looks like when the rights of their citizens and constituents are being trampled on. District of Columbia Mayor Mayor Vincent Gray and other DC Council members found their shoes, took to the street to protest the wrongs occasioned upon the District and its women by the budget compromise that Mr. Obama applauded and congratulated himself over late Friday night. Mayor Gray and friends led by example:

Updated, 6:22 p.m.: Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) and council members Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) have been arrested by U.S. Capitol Police officers.

Also arrested was Sekou Biddle (D), who is filling Brown’s former at-large council seat on an interim basis.

More than 200 protesters gathered, including local officials and activists. Police let them sit in the street for 30 minutes, then began arresting them. Protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

Mayor Gray and council members Brown, Alexander, Wells, Bowser and Brown not only found their shoes and their voice to stand up for the people they represent, they were willing to put their physical liberty on the line to do so. Gray et. al should be congratulated for this principled stand.

There is a lesson to be learned here by other inhabitants of our nation’s capitol.

  1. orionATL says:

    good for the mayor and crew.

    walk the walk isn’t as popular now as when government
    opposition was lightly or non- punitive,

    but these d.c. leaders put their shoes on, laced ’em up,

    and took a walk, anyway.

  2. RevBev says:

    And I heard some of an interview with Eleanor Holmes Norton….hot, mad, wow; she was furious.

  3. orionATL says:

    “…now that mr. o is comfortably ensconced… neither he nor his walking shoes…”

    i’d guess it’d be downright uncomfortable – to the point of blisters –

    to wear them





    board-room shoes,

    on a walk to the capitol. **

    **this pom dedicated to my pal, the earlofhurl.

  4. bmaz says:

    You know, this story really is about Gray, the other council members, Eleanor Norton and all; it was kind of unfair for me to sully it with the Obama comparison. The contrast is just so obvious and dramatic I literally could not help myself. I am so sick and tired of how this administration comports itself that it overcomes my rational intent to ignore it. It is just flat out depressing sometimes.

    • econobuzz says:

      You’re forgiven. I mean, it’s not like there’s no connection between Obama and the congressional budget deal they are protesting — “which includes controversial District riders.”

      • mzchief says:

        There are folks in Southeast far too poor to leave. What’s wrong with DC getting statehood? Otherwise it is taxation without representation.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It votes reliably Democratic and the GOP won’t allow it. Besides, the GOP doesn’t much appreciate its large population of African Americans, the poor and immigrants.

          If DC were to have state status, Congress would still have to provide major funding, since so many government office, political activities and politicians reside in DC, from VP motorcades to Capitol Hill to the Library of Congress.

          Negotiations over federal contributions toward policing and security expenses alone would be never-ending. So would environmental issues, from dumping in the Potomac to munitions and other discards from military bases. The feds exempt themselves from lots of local jurisdictional things, paying property tax among them. The Feds, essentially, would play UN to DC’s NYC, except reverse the population and relative size.

          I suppose the biggest roadblock is that Congress, like Lucy, doesn’t much relish giving up a good political football.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Presumably disturbing the peace on federal property or failing to follow the lawful orders of a federal officer. It’s called civil disobedience. Perhaps their sentences will be a period of public service. The stables Mr. Obama inherited have yet to be emptied of their political offal.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        Gtocha. Civil disobedience against the law.

        What’s the sentencing guidelines? Life without parole in supermax.

    • demi says:

      Did you get answer? Amazing, all the comments here.
      On a personal OT here. I keep reading about people here getting their tshirts. Cool. I still havent’t received my mail saying I’m a lower level membership.

  5. jo6pac says:

    Thank you, a small step but who knows what it will take the Amerikan people to wake up? If they even do this before it’s over and it is pretty much over, the hand writeing is on the wall. Green all the way

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Let’s not let the too careful and risk averse defeat the effective, the commonsensical, the common wealth.

    When pragmatism becomes nonsensical, when it substitutes for political courage, it’s no longer pragmatic; it’s selfish ambition.

    • bmaz says:

      That is a very good question – if anybody lives in the District or has any better rundown on Gray, please speak up.

      • arob says:

        Only living here a little while, but he defeated Adrian Fenty last year. I don’t know much about him except In large part he rode a wave of discontent over Michelle Rhee’s destructive reign running the schools. Fenty was seen as a tool of the wealthy in the NW part of town, Gray is seen as representing poor and working class neighborhoods here to a greater degree.

        • Sharkbabe says:

          That would have been just about my summation. Fenty was building a machine with the money boyz, looked like he was unchallengeable, on his way to becoming the DC Daley. Michelle Rhee was his crown jewel, but her antics and arrogance elicited absolute rage. I couldn’t believe it myself when Vince Gray threw in and then actually won, but that was the amount of rage at Fentrhee.

          Unfortunately Gray has stepped on his d*ck fairly early with some typical dumbassery all too common to DC politix. Anyway good on him for this.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    OT, but as a fan of the X-Files, I thought this FBI report on a specific UFO citing in 1950 was positively English in its understatement (emphasis mine):

    In one intriguing note, sent on 22 March 1950, special agent Guy Hottel, head of the FBI’s Washington field office, wrote to Hoover with information on three “so-called flying saucers” that a witness claimed had crash-landed in New Mexico.

    According to the memo, an air force investigator stated that three flying saucers had been recovered in the area, along with the bodies of the alien crews. The memo goes on to add: “Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only three feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots.”According to the witness, the saucers were brought down by a “high-powered government radar” in the area that interfered with the spaceships’ controls. “No further evaluation was attempted,” the memo concludes.

    If that wasn’t a premature April Fool’s Day joke, the response seems a tad lackadaisical.

  8. mzchief says:

    This today from DCVote.Org:

    It’s Time to Stand Up for DC

    Date: Monday, April 11, 2011
    Location: 2nd and Constitution Avenue, NE
    Time: 5:00 PM

    As feared, Senator Harry Reid and President Barack Obama sacrificed the rights of DC residents to get a deal on the federal budget bill. We need to fight back before the deal is signed into law.

    Demand democracy for DC by joining us this MONDAY at 5 PM outside of the Senate Hart Building, which is located at 2nd and Constitution Avenue, NE.

    Pledge right now that you will take to the streets by emailing us at [email protected].

    Are you tired of being treated like a second-class citizen? Mayor Vincent Gray said today that this deal makes him angry. Delegate Norton has been expressing her outrage all week. Both of them have called on DC residents to take to the streets.

    DC residents have been angry about second and third class citizen status for some time but they must really be on fire. Recall Catholic Charities threat to DC in 2009? You can see also see “DC Residents Pick Up Boehner’s Trash” at the DCVote.Org YouTube channel.

      • mzchief says:

        I am told that’s true for intersex and transgender but DC and Minneapolis are better for them than anywhere else in the US. Hopefully they still have protections as Federal workers. Can anyone give a status on that?Debating trans rights, D.C. abortions, and Phyllis Schlafly: Your sex and gender morning roundup” (Apr. 5, 2011):

        MORGAN MENESES-SHEETS of Equality Maryland takes to the pages of the Baltimore Sun in a last-ditch effort to push trans protections through in the state. “Right now it is a fact that 1 in 5 transgender Marylanders were fired and 12 percent have experienced homelessness because of who they are. More than 70 percent have been harassed on the job. This is unacceptable and must end this year,” Meneses-Sheets writes. But commenters aren’t convinced. “HB235 provides necessary protections regarding employment and housing. It also explicitly legitimises forcing trans people to be put at the back of the bus, refused service at lunch counters, refused treatment by medics, and refused access to any restrooms at all, not just ‘white only’ ones,” one commenter weighs in. “Other minorities can’t be treated this way, HB235 explicitly states that Trans people can.”

        There’s more in that article here.

  9. Kelly Canfield says:

    Scanning the comments, I see Teddy hasn’t been here yet; I think he’d agree with me –

    This is how one gets things done in DC. Thank gay activists for providing the example.

  10. Peterr says:

    Funny how the District came out on the short end of the budget deal. You’d almost think they don’t have any representatives or senators who could vote to keep Congress from messing with local decisions.

    Oh, wait . . .

  11. Fractal says:

    Vince Gray was Chairman of DC Council for the past several terms and was just elected Mayor in November 2010. Our local affiliate of Democracy for America (DFA), called DC for Democracy, did not formally endorse Gray against the incumbent Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 primary, but a lot of us in DC for Democracy could not stand Fenty or his union-busting school superintendent. Gray took office in January 2011 and was sideswiped by the White House cave-in to the GOP House of Reps demands to restrict our use of local funds.

    The cheesy White House “deal” to sell us out has not passed Congress yet, but the “deal” will supposedly prevent us from using our local funds for such local purposes as we decide, such as a free clean needle exchange to fight AIDS (like hundreds of other cities), health services for pregnant poor women (including abortion), and funding only the schools we choose (Boehner’s pet project of “vouchers” for private schools will be renewed, apparently).

    Vince Gray was a member of DC Council for a term or two before he was elected Chairman. He represented Ward 7, which is one of the wards “East of the River,” as some folks say down here. Meaning the Anacostia. The other ward East of the River is Ward 8, which is currently represented by Councilmember Marion Barry.

    Before being elected to public office Vince Gray served the public in at least two other careers, as long-time head of Covenant House, a social services organization, and as head of the Dept. of Human Services under Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly in the 1990s. Mayor Kelly, incidentally, was the only other DC Mayor to be arrested for civil disobedience. Mayor Gray grew up here in DC, went to high school here, and played high school and college baseball. He broke the color barrier at a fraternity at George Washington University during his college years.

    • bmaz says:

      Thanks Fractal. What was the local take on the election dustup with the guy he supposedly promised a job to and then canned?

      • Citizen92 says:

        There have also been the usual missteps that go with a new administration. Some problematic crony hires. Some ill-advised vehicle leases for expensive Lincoln products. Some silly relocation packages. Gray has been on the defensive lately locally for these foibles.

      • posaune says:

        Skepticism has been rising about Gray & his appointees. However, people still remember their disgust with Fenty. Fenty lost the 4th Ward (his own ward), which turned the election. Fenty barely held onto the 3rd Ward (the “haves”). Personally, as a DC resident, I’m thrilled more that the Council reps joined Gray. .. . I could NEVER have predicted that Tommy Wells could manage any grit! But good on them. Now they still need to dump garbage on Boehner’s front step.

        • Citizen92 says:

          Boehner’s “front step” actually being a step down, since he lives in someone’s basement. Not sure what Pelosi’s DC domestic situation was, but I guess Boehner has it better than Dennis Hastert. Speaker Hastert I seem to recall lived in a condo high-rise in Southwest with two of his male staffers.

            • Citizen92 says:

              The townhouse is a new one but yep, a basement. Often wondered why I saw the telltale black Suburbans idling late at night. Norm Coleman lived nearby in a basement too, but he wasn’t paying for it. Instead he claimed that he was living in the basement of his top fundraiser and exchanging furniture for the privilege.

      • Fractal says:

        I should have started out with a big thanks to you, bmaz, for giving us some local ink!

        Here is how one of our favorite local free-rags-with-great-blogs covered today’s civil disobedience:


        As for the “dust up” over Mayor Gray’s questionable hiring decisions, stay tuned. There was an all-day hearing before a DC Council committee last Thursday, with more testimony on the way. The clown who raised the stink about being offered a job in exchange for bashing Fenty made a cameo appearance in the committee room, then took a powder without testifying. The chair of the committee promised she would subpoena him to testify.

    • orionATL says:

      thank you,

      that was very informative.

      (and as a former resident of the va side of the metro area, very interesting)

    • stevo67 says:

      good to know this guy is NOT a member of O’Sellout’s inner circle… then again, if Gray was, I doubt he would have marched into the streets and got arrested.

      I’m starting to like DC’s mayor. It’s about time they had a good one.

  12. jedimsnbcko19 says:

    As the powers that be and other make OBAMA Clarence Thomas his Black Base will attack him.

    Cornel West is on the war path attacking OBAMA.

    Get your Pop Corn ready! Obama has made another big mistake here.

    My African Americans friends say OBAMA has taken them for granted and done nothing for them, sounds familiar? :)

    Some reporter should ask OBAMA would progressives vote for Clarence Thomas?

  13. Citizen92 says:

    The 2010 election was racially stratified. Gray’s base was overwhelmingly African-American. His opponent, the incumbent mayor, Adrian Fenty was supported largely by whites. Fenty made a name for himself by efficiently delivering city services but being overwhelmingly tone deaf on media issues and generally steam rolled the DC City Council, whose Chairman was Gray. Fenty also had strong identification with Obama – the two went out to get burgers, played basketball together, etc, etc.

    Gray is DC establishment politics, which means more than lip service to Home Rule. Gray is a grad of a local DC public high school (Dunbar), served as an DC Agency head in the 90”s and has been the deliberate and plodding head of the DC City Council for several years. Bureaucrat.

    Keep in mind the DC Mayor really is the equivalent of a state governor and the DC Council equal to a state legislature and they exercise similar powers and functions. Except that the US Congress can muck around with DC’s own taxpayers revenues and nobody can do anything about it.

    • mzchief says:

      Except that the US Congress can muck around with DC’s own taxpayers revenues and nobody can do anything about it.

      It’s been my understanding that the townies want to end that situation.

      • Citizen92 says:

        DC taxpayers have wanted this for some time. DC income tax raised by DC government from DC residents should not be subject to a Congressional veto. The city is particularly tax disadvantaged since the Feds will not allow a ‘commuter tax’ structure that exists in similiar urban areas (think Philly and the NJ suburbs, NYC and NJ CT, etc). Whereas most wages are taxed where the income is earned (and the wageearner’s home state does not tax if the borrower works out of state) in DC, the legions of Maryland and Virginia residents that commute in and out daily do not contribute a dime to the DC income tax. Always a lot of bluster about how they pay sales tax on lunch but it is a patently unfair setup and places a large tax burden on DC residents.

  14. AitchD says:

    “Forty-one people were arrested at the rally and charged with unlawful assembly for blocking passage on the street, U.S. Capitol Police said. They were taken to a Capitol Police facility in Southwest for processing. The office of Acting D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, who was appointed by Gray, will decide whether to file charges.”

    LINK to above quote.

  15. BearCountry says:

    Thanks for the look at leadership in D.C. I just wrote a letter to the editor of the Christian Science Monitor about obama’s “leadership” in the current budget kabuki. I think that it kind of fits here. I will put it in and anyone can read it or not according to the urge.

    The morning after the election in 2008, the Masters of the Universe met with Mr. Obama and gave him his marching orders: revive the Republican party from near extinction by playing bipartisany about everything; wipe away any possibility of single payer health care because the insurance companies can’t squeeze enough money out of the population; continue to give big banks lots of unconstrained money so they can continue to give big bonuses to the top eschelon; ignore those suckers that are losing their homes; keep the tax breaks for the rich and big corps based on the lie that lower taxes create jobs (just look at the record of the last 10 years to see how true that is); support Israel no matter how egregiously they act toward you and the Palestinians; and, above all, keep the wars and related things (torture, targeted killings without trial, etc,) going because it is good for the Military-Industrial complex. If you do these things we will see that you lead a comfy life after you get voted out of office in four years. If you don’t, there are alternatives.

    As a consequence, we do not have a leader in the White House, we have someone looking to be in the middle of a very rightwing political scrum. It is a joke that he will be well placed to be in the middle. He has a lot of leeway with the base because they are not going to give him the level of support that he got the first time around. It’s the old “fool me once….” idea. He is going for the big bucks because he will not get the small contributions of last time. His problems go far beyond this budget and this “historic” compromise: the problems are nestled in all of the times he had the opportunity to lead and didn’t. This is simply symptomatic of his whole stumbling, fumbling approach to governing. David Plouffe can spin all he wants but the facts are out there to be seen by anyone not an obamabot. The saying is that opportunity only knocks once. In Mr. Obama’s case it was time after time and he never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity.

  16. Citizen92 says:

    Today’s DC was created from land ceeded from Maryland. There was a Virginia contribution too but they took it back in 1847, today now known as Arlington County (VA). One oft-cited “solution” to the DC “problem” is to retrocede the remainder to Maryland and carve out the “federal zone” which is primarily clustered downtown. The concept of the Federal City has taken some hits lately as the Feds have chosen to move some Agencies out of DC.

  17. enoughisenough says:

    Give me a break. Why would we expect THIS president to march on a picket line (BTW, WHAT FREAKING PICKET LINE), but not Clinton or Carter? You will not be satisfied until a teabagger is actually sitting in the WH.

    • Knox says:

      The point of this post as I read it is that Candidate Obama (the guy you apparently voted for) said he cared about things that President Obama doesn’t give a shit about.

      If you’re happy with the job President Obama’s doing, then why did you vote for Candidate Obama? Don’t you want the guy you help get elected to do the job you elected him to do?

    • bmaz says:

      I can answer that quite easily. Because THIS president swore that if certain predicate situations occurred, that he would absolutely positively march on the picket line; neither Carter nor Clinton made such a statement, nor even hinted at such a posture. Obama promised he would. But when the predicate event indeed happened, he hid and cowered like a disinterested chump. Got any more questions?

      • posaune says:

        Bmaz, thanks for the Carter & Clinton comparison. Puts it in a new light: how desperate O was to be president. And how desperate we were to believe. To your credit, from day one, you wrote repeatedly that O was no constitutionalist. Geez, we should have branded it on our foreheads then, ’cause it sure is now.

  18. Knox says:

    Today, however, we see what real Democratic leadership in Washington DC looks like when the rights of their citizens and constituents are being trampled on.

    It’s important that Democratic Party “leaders” do things like this from time to time. It helps maintain the Democratic Party brand while the real leaders of the sellout Democratic Party are working hand in glove with their buddies to screw over the American people.

    I’m glad DC Mayor Gray did what he did. Let’s just remember not to give any of the credit to the Democratic Party until the leaders at the highest levels fully support what DC Mayor Gray did by backing it up with action and results.

    It’s time to see some results we can believe in!

    • milesscott says:

      I used to lived in Washington, DC. I am a graduate of Howard University.I understand how the Mayor and The City Council feel. They should have been singing the Late Great James Brown song “Payback” with a little modification of the words. The Mayor should have said “you sold us out for the chicken change”. That would have gotten Superman Light (Obama) attention. And Poor Eleanor Holmes Norton she is the Rodney Dangerfield of The House Of Representatives. She get no respect. With over 400,000 people in The District Of Columbia . This is more like asphyxiation as aforementioned taxation without representation. Because anytime they can not change the policy in the whole country the just kick the District.Superman Light goes along like every president before have. Can we now say this without a shadow doubt that Superman Light(Obama) is really”Wubya” with a brain.

      • orionATL says:


        thanks for your comment.

        i think it gets to the heart of how some d. c. folk feel.

        being leaderless is a frustrating as hell feeling.

  19. posaune says:

    Another DC story:

    Last winter we adopted a little boy from foster care (another state). He has a history of severe trauma from his birth family’s abuse, plus many LDs. He was removed by CPS. We got him an IEP-education plan for therapeutic environment- in his home state, detailing the services he would need. The IEP is transferable under IDEA, federal law, where the receiving state has to provide the same services. Guess what? DCPS didn’t want to spend $ on a new kid, so their atty’s stated that our foster son was not a resident of DC, hence, not entitled to ANY education.

    In the meantime, we found out that Congressional Reps & Senators were sending their kids to DCPS and NONE of them have DC residency, being as their home jurisdiction is the official residence. DCPS rules state that any out-of-jurisdiction student attending must pay out-of-jurisdiction tuition, except for members of Congress. So, DC taxpayers are footing the bill for these people once again!

  20. posaune says:

    Gotta sign off so I can get the kid to school tomorrow.

    But, I gotta say thanks to bmaz, for this and the thousand other things you do to educate us all. I can’t tell you, bmaz, how very, very much we appreciate your insights, analysis, integrity. And to think we can come here every day for our dose of ethics.





  21. Fractal says:

    I gotta turn in, too, bmaz. Another day tomorrow, another chance for more civil disobedience!

    But it is always wonderful to stop by the Lake for a breath of fresh, clean, clear-thinking air. We have a serious problem on our hands when our Democratic President is willing to betray the weakest and least-represented population in the country in order to ….. Now, I forgot. What exactly was it that the President gained by selling out DC voters?

  22. Neal Deesit says:

    Three years ago, his inauguration was a really big deal in D.C. Now, Obama can’t get arrested in that town.

  23. workingclass says:

    Obama especially likes to shit on black people. He is like a self hating gay Republican.

  24. juliania says:

    Thank you for this bmaz, and firedoglake. I wouldn’t have known about it except for reading it on here. I would put it up there in ‘recommended’ but there’s no button for it – it really needs to be more of a story, not to disappear due to the timing. I don’t understand the spotlight thingie, always looks formidable when I click onto it. RECOMMEND, anyway.