WASHINGTON (WMAL) – There are new flags flying along Pennsylvania Avenue. They look like normal American flags, but upon closer inspection you’ll notice they have an extra star. Monday D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser stood alongside veterans watching as veteran Bernie Siler climbed up a ladder and hoisted a 51 star flag up a light pole on Pennsylvania Avenue to mark the start of statehood week. When he was done, a crowd of statehood supporters started chanting, “51.”
The rally started at the Wilson Building, and then the mayor and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton – who has been pushing for statehood for decades – flanked by District veterans took a ride in a bus down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol cheering, “Statehood now.”
“In case they thought they could stop us now, all I can say to them is that you’re damn lucky we didn’t take this bus all the way up to the steps of the Capitol,” Holmes Norton – the District’s non-voting member of Congress – said at the rally.
The push for D.C. statehood comes out of a desire by District officials to get voting members of Congress for their constituents. The city’s 700,000 taxpaying residents do not have full representation, and the city’s leaders think that’s wrong. Thursday D.C. statehood will get a hearing in the House of Representatives for the first time in more than 25 years. It seems like the statehood movement has been picking up steam recently. H.R. 51 has more than 200 co-sponsors, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Taxation with some representation is not good enough, so at this time tyranny still exists until that 51st star goes up,” Siler said.
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) September 16, 2019
While Siler and other veterans at the rally proudly carried the modified flag, some veterans not in attendance think the creation of that flag is disrespectful and even illegal.
“We believe that the flag code, Title 4 and Title 36, demand that you, you know, obey respect to the flag, and the only person that can change the flag, modify the flag or desecrate the flag is the president of the United States,” said D.C. Legion Department Post 68 Commander Darrell Smith.
Sunday people at a district meeting of chapters representing more than 6,000 veterans along with members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars approved an endorsement of the flag code and specifically disagreed with the District’s posting of the modified flag with 51 stars, according to Smith.
Bowser does not believe the city disrespected the American flag or veterans by creating the modified flags.
“We show great reverence to our flag, and we show what it will look like when it is truly representative of all taxpaying Americans,” Bowser said.
Political analyst Chuck Thies told WMAL’s Mornings on the Mall he’s a proponent of D.C. statehood, but he called the creation of the flags and Monday’s rally “a meaningless stunt” and a waste of taxpayer money.
He said the Democrats who are sponsoring the bill don’t care about the rights of Washingtonians but rather the possibility of adding two more Democrats to the Senate.
“And that’s really disgusting,” Thies said.
Even if the bill passes the Democratic controlled House, it seems unlikely to pass the Republican controlled Senate, especially under the leadership of Mitch McConnell. Still, Holmes Norton’s optimistic.
“Don’t even worry about McConnell. He will not be there much longer,” Holmes Norton said.
Thursday’s hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in the Rayburn building.
Copyright 2019 by WMAL.com. All Rights Reserved. (Photo and video: Mayor Muriel Bowser via Twitter)