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Protestors want to hold Bowser to promises

By Tonesha TownselHoward University News Service
On April 13, 2015

Protestors gathered outside Lincoln Theatre last week, as Mayor Muriel Bowser gave her
State of the District address inside.
Credit: Howard News Serivce

Inside the Lincoln Theater, it was all applause and niceties as newly-minted Mayor Muriel Bowser gave her first State of the District.

But outside on U-Street, a corridor that is the poster child for all that is good and bad about the city’s rampant gentrification, dozens huddled in the rain last Tuesday night with signs to remind – and warn – their elected officials not to forget them.

Armed with signs that read, “Equitable Development or No Development,” “Condo Madness: Stop Displacing Us,” and “Black Lives Matter,” protesters shouted and chanted to voice their concern – and sometimes displeasure – with the mayor.

“Aye-Oh! Muriel Bowser has got to go,” some shouted as police gathered around the entrance of the theater to keep protestors from entering.

Washington resident Chris Alcott stood in front of the Lincoln Theater holding the condo sign.

“I understand that there is a dire need for improvement around the city,” said Alcott, “but at what point do you stop sacrificing the livelihood of our residents to make it happen?”

Many residents and protestors fear new developments around the city will cause displacement for those in moderate to low income homes.

Bowser addressed the issue during her speech. “We know that it’s tougher and tougher for many people to start down and stay on the pathway to the middle class,” she said.

She noted that in the 1960s, her parents were able to buy a home in the District on “two modest government salaries.” The median home value now is a half-million dollars, she said.

“If we are going to remain a city that keeps and welcomes families, we must do more to create opportunity for them,” said Bowser.

Bowser promised to address chronic homelessness, the economic divide and rapidly disappearing affordable housing that are driving many African Americans and others with moderate incomes from the city.

Many of the protestors said they didn’t necessarily disapprove of Bower at this point, but are fearful of what she and the City Council might do.

“I just think that she needs a reminder that you need people, you need residents, you need the city to make things happen,” said Ann Wilkos while standing in the rain. “We just have to make sure that she doesn’t forget about us.

“I think she’s handling things the best way she can at this point. There’s always room for progress, of course. She knows the government and she has the experience. She has the potential to be and do great things.”

Washington resident Joila Wiggins came to the address with friends who were protesting the city’s policies.

“I’m going to be brutally honest,” said Wiggins. “I wasn’t too thrilled about her at first, but given the first 84 days, I am very impressed.  She’s very hopeful. I understand that there may be people who are upset, but you’re never ever going to be able to please everyone all of the time.

“What I appreciate is that she’s reaching back,” continued Wiggins. “The mayors prior to her reached forward for the money. She realizes that we need the money in order to run the city, but she also realizes that we need people.”

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