Georgetown University students joined thousands of people protesting in favor of national voting rights and Washington, D.C. statehood during a march to the National Mall on Aug. 28.
Students and organizations including Georgetown’s chapter of Students for D.C. Statehood called for the passage of several bills related to suffrage at the March On for Washington and Voting Rights. The march also featured speeches from activists addressing voting rights as well as D.C. statehood and the importance of ending police brutality.
The fight for voting rights and racial equality must remain a primary focus for D.C. activists, according to Taylor Kahn-Perry (COL ’23).
“One of the major messages I heard was that there’s been so much bloodshed and so many folks who have lost their lives for the cause of voting rights,” Kahn-Perry wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are doing a disservice, not only to Black communities today, but to the long struggle for justice in this country by failing to be outraged by the attack on voting rights.”
Marchers advocated for bills including the For the People Act, a federal bill to establish national voting standards, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a second federal bill to work to dismantle racial voting inequalities, as well as the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would pave the way for D.C. statehood.
Currently, all three bills are awaiting votes in the U.S. Senate, though none of them are expected to pass because of Republican opposition.
The bills are also not expected to pass because of structural problems in Congress, according to Mia Young (NHS ’23), director of programming for Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood.
“The DC Statehood bill, the For The People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act are being held up due to attachment to arcane procedures in the legislative process,” Young wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The march, which was organized by March On, a nonprofit organization of women-led and grassroots political advocacy groups, was held on the 58th anniversary of the civil rights movement’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The original March on Washington called for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Organizers called for a new March on Washington after state legislators around the country introduced hundreds of bills restricting voting rights. Speakers referenced recent laws enacted by the Georgia state legislature and Texas state legislature, which have been considered the strictest of recent voting laws passed on the state level by voting experts.
Speakers at the march included D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and several other activists and D.C. residents.
Events like March On for Washington and Voting Rights will hopefully help raise the profile of the D.C. statehood movement, specifically among Georgetown students, according to Allegra Lubar (COL ’23), who attended the Aug. 28 march.
“I think most Georgetown students, at least that I’ve talked to, would be in favor of statehood,” Lubar wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I also think DC statehood is becoming a more well-known and slightly more realistic cause in general, so Georgetown students will probably start hearing more about it.”
Advocacy efforts around D.C. statehood have intensified in recent years. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Washington, D.C. Admission Act on Apr. 22, though the legislation has stalled in the Senate. The legislation comes after the House voted to grant statehood to D.C. on June 26, 2020, the first time either chamber of Congress voted to approve D.C. statehood.
Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) pledged the university’s support for D.C. statehood in a letter to congressional representatives in 2019.
While passage of national voting rights laws and D.C. statehood may not happen soon, events like the march will hopefully bring widespread attention to these issues, according to Young.
“Our hope is that the marches all across the country made it known that this is not acceptable to voters and that voting rights needs to be a top legislative priority,” Young wrote.