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Ending taxation without representation

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Volunteers from Washington DC held a rally to advocate for Washington to become the 51st state. (Source: Cecelia Hanley) Volunteers from Washington DC held a rally to advocate for Washington to become the 51st state. (Source: Cecelia Hanley)
Rain and Occupy Wall Street protestors prevented many supporters from attending the "Free DC" rally in Charlotte. (Source: Cecelia Hanley) Rain and Occupy Wall Street protestors prevented many supporters from attending the "Free DC" rally in Charlotte. (Source: Cecelia Hanley)

CHARLOTTE, NC (RNN) – Every schoolchild is taught about the Boston Tea Party when the colonists dumped tea in Boston Harbor to protest taxation without representation.

But imagine living in present-day America where you pay federal taxes, but don't have a representative in Congress, yet the federal government can dictate how the municipality's budget is spent and on what. Politicians who live thousands of miles away can approve, scrap or line-item veto your city's budget.

Then you would be living in our nation's capital - Washington D.C.

"The most direct analogy is a student government association. Certainly, they have powers granted to them, but the administration can any time absolve the student government association," said Nathan Bennett Flemming, one of 30 to 40 volunteers who came to the Democratic National Convention to convince delegates that Washington should be the 51st state.

Supporters, many of whom were wearing T-shirts with the web address statehood.dc.org, held a rally on Tuesday that fell victim to the Occupy Wall Street protestors. The group started marching near the DC Statehood group's designated area, forcing police to shut down blocks of streets – preventing supporters, including Washington's Mayor Vincent Gray, from reaching the area.

To make matters worse, it rained on the rally, so speakers turned to two canopies sheltering a handful of enthusiastic supporters who were able to make it through the security blockade.

"We're the only place in the country that has to send its local money out of its pocket to Congress when they diddle and fiddle and wait until they get ready to (pass the budget)," a rally speaker said.

With their motto, "Working to end taxation without representation," the group is circulating a petition around the convention to demonstrate to Congress there is support for their cause.

"I've lived in the District for 37 years, and after each election, work on statehood fizzles out," Deborah Russak said. "I'm determined to get statehood before I turn 80 in three years. If I don't try, I'm afraid I won't get it before I pass on."

This year as well as in 2004, statehood for Washington wasn't included in the Democrats' platform. In Tampa, the Republicans mention the statehood issue in one sentence: "We oppose statehood for the District of Columbia."

It will take an act of Congress for Washington D.C. to become a state.

The organization received a grant for outreach and literature to help their cause, but did not travel down to Tampa for the Republican convention.

"The D.C. Republicans told us that the (Republican) convention was not the place for us," Kesh Ladduwahetty said.

The Washington GOP has been working gently with their party to push statehood, and statehood organizations will work with the party to circulate literature specific to Republican elected officials, Ladduwahetty added.

Some Republicans do support statehood for Washington. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee went on record during the 2008 campaign that he supported home rule for Washington.

Susan Meehan, who was speaking with some of the volunteers at the Charlotte Convention Center on Wednesday said that she asked fellow delegates from Washington what it means not to have representation in Congress, and she placed the responses on YouTube.

"We not equal, we're subjects," she said.

Washington D.C. does have "ghost" representation. In the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton is a non-voting member who can serve on committees, but not vote on any legislation. She's also has to ask permission to speak on the House floor, a right other members of Congress have.

Washington did not even have an elected city council or a mayor until 1973's District of Columbia Home Rule Act, however, Congress does review all legislation passed by the city council.

When the group returns to Washington, they will continue to press members of Congress for statehood.

"Not being able to pick up my phone to call my senator and get them on line is so sad," Russak said.

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