Georgetown University students joined thousands of people who demonstrated in support of national and state suffrage in Washington, DC, in a march to the National Mall on August 28.
Students and organizations, including the Georgetown Chapter of Students for the State of DC, called for passage of several suffrage-related bills during the March for Washington and Voting Rights. The march also featured speeches by activists on the franchise as well as the state of DC and the importance of ending police brutality.
The fight for the right to vote and racial equality must remain a priority for DC activists, according to Taylor Kahn-Perry (COL ’23).
“One of the main messages I heard was that there has been so much blood shed and so many people who have lost their lives in the cause of the right to vote,” Kahn-Perry wrote in an e- mail to The Hoya. “We are doing a disservice, not only to black communities today, but the long struggle for justice in this country by not outraging the attack on the right to vote.”
Protesters 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 dismantle the Racial voting inequalities, as well as the Washington, DC Admission Act, which would pave the way for a state in Washington.
Currently, all three bills are awaiting a vote in the US Senate, although none of them are expected to pass due to Republican opposition.
The bills are also not expected to pass due to structural issues in Congress, according to Mia Young (NHS ’23), Georgetown student programming director for DC Statehood.
“The DC Statehood Bill, the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act are suspended due to attachment to obscure procedures in the legislative process,” Young wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The march, organized by March On, a nonprofit organization of women-led and grassroots political rights groups, took place on the 58th anniversary of the civil rights movement’s march in Washington for the employment and freedom. The initial march on Washington called for 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 lawmakers across the country introduced hundreds of bills restricting voting rights. Speakers referred to recent laws passed by the Georgia and Texas state legislatures, which were considered the most stringent recent election laws passed at the state level by voting experts.
Speakers for the march included DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and several other activists and DC residents.
Events like March On for Washington and Voting Rights will hopefully help raise the profile of the movement for Washington state, especially among Georgetown students, according to Allegra Lubar (COL ’23), who attended the march of August 28.
“I think most Georgetown students, at least those I spoke to, would be in favor of a state,” Lubar wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I also think Washington state is becoming a more well-known and slightly more realistic cause in general, so Georgetown students will likely start to hear more about this.”
Advocacy efforts around DC’s statehood have intensified in recent years. The United States House of Representatives passed the Admission Act in Washington, DC on April 22, although the legislation is blocked in the Senate. The legislation comes after the House voted to grant DC statehood on June 26, 2020, the first time either house of Congress has voted to approve DC’s statehood.
Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) pledged the university’s support to DC State in a letter to Congress officials in 2019.
While the passage of national suffrage laws and a DC state won’t happen soon, events like the march will hopefully attract widespread attention to these issues, according to Young.
“Our hope is that marches across the country have made it clear that this is not acceptable to voters and that the right to vote must be a top legislative priority,” Young wrote.