WASHINGTON – D.C. residents participated in a bit of street theater outside the British embassy Wednesday as part of their new effort to get the attention of the rest of the nation.
Dressed in colonial garb and reading a "declaration of reunification" addressed to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, a handful of representatives of D.C. Vote and D.C. Rabble say they want the Brits to take them back since they do not have true voting representation in Congress.
"Years after rebelling against being a British colony, I have no intention to remain in an American colony any longer," said Paul Strauss, D.C.'s shadow senator, a powerless position.
British officials were not at all amused about having this little drama played out at their embassy, saying only that it was a "potentially embarrassing situation."
In truth, the activists are not serious about rejoining the British empire, but they are dead serious about their issue.
When the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787 and the federal city was carved out of the states of Maryland and Virginia, D.C. residents were still allowed to vote in those states. But that ended by decree of Congress in 1800.
In Washington, D.C., right now, license plates don the slogan "taxation without representation." Another move is under way to change the D.C. flag to bear the same statement.
While not a state, district residents point out they should have voting rights because:
— There are more residents in D.C. than in the state of Alaska.
— District residents pay an estimated $2 billion in federal taxes each year.
— D.C. residents live under the same rules that Congress and the president impose on the rest of the nation, but have no say in voting whether those laws are passed.
They do have Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, known for giving fiery speeches on the floor of the House. She is often called a congresswoman but she cannot vote in committee or on the floor of the House.
Recently, the activists gained an ally in Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., to go along with Norton and D.C. Mayor Tony Williams.
President Bush is on record opposing the idea. No word on how the Queen looks at all this, but the activists were pleased at the royal reception they received at the British embassy.
"Very, very polite, very, very receptive, and although they didn't formally take a position they certainly seemed to understand the nature of our grievances," Strauss said.
Some legal scholars say Congress can change the status of D.C. voters without amending the Constitution, but so far, there has been no groundswell of support for the idea.