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tv   DC Attorney General Holds News Conference  CSPAN  December 17, 2021 10:01am-10:47am EST

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and home accessories. each purchase supports our operations. shop now or anytime at c-spanshop.org. washington, d.c. attorney general racine announced he is filing a lawsuit against the proud boys, oath keepers and others for their alleged involvement in the january 6 capitol attack to recoup costs to the government. ag racine: before i get started
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with the substance of my remarks , i will speak. the honorable congresswoman ellen -- eleanor holmes norton will speak after me. next, charles allen, ward six councilmember, covering this area and others in d.c. and chair of the city council judiciary committee. joanne woodgate is the executive director of states united democracy center, an organization that works to ensure access to voting for all and works against violence and extremism.
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i also want to thank our cocounsel in the case who provided excellent pro bono assistance, and those are lawyers from two firms. two of the world's greatest firms, who generously and expertly assisted us in this matter. behind us of course is the u.s. capitol, the recognized symbol of democratic government. this building has stood since 1800 and it is where franklin delano roosevelt, our country's longest serving elected president's, words are inscribed and here is what they say. we must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any
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hatred is a wedge designed to attack our civilization. allow me now to take us back to another tragic day that befell our country, september 11, 2001. on this day, the united states weathered a terrorist attack covertly orchestrated from beyond our country's borders, one that also aimed to take down our capitol. if it wasn't for the heroes on flight 93. our country responded by declaring war on terrorism and what became our country's longest armed conflict. nearly a year ago, on january 6, 2021, our country faced a very different but familiar enemy. inflamed by a sitting president
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and other elected officials, fellow americans dressed in military fatigues and wearing red, white and blue, were armed with weapons and materials that shockingly permitted them to construct a wooden gallows used to execute someone by hanging on the grounds of our hallowed capitol. like the planes that attacked just like the planes that attacked the pentagon and the world trade center and crashed in the fields of shanksville, pennsylvania, the images of that shameful and contemptible day can never be erased. it was like 9/11, a planned terrorist attack, but this time, our own citizens were hell-bent on destroying the freedom and ideals on which our country was founded and continues to aspire to achieve.
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january 6 was, to say the least, a brazen, violent, and deadly attack that traumatized this city, this community and our country, and importantly, no one -- no one -- bore the brunt of this gutless attack more than the courageous law enforcement officers, including the men and women of the d.c. metropolitan police department, who went into the fire and violence with one objective in mind -- remove the violent mob and restore our country's fragile democracy. while some desperately want to rewrite history and sweep the events of january 6 under the rug, the district of columbia and its residents have chosen to speak truth through this filing,
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through this complaint, through this case. it is for these reasons that the independent office of attorney general for the district of columbia is filing the first civil lawsuit by a state or municipal government to hold accountable the proud boys, the oath keepers and more than ready -- more than 30 of their leaders and members for conspiring to terrorize the district of columbia, for unlawfully interfering with our country's peaceful transition of power and for assaulting our men and women in blue, who valiantly defended the capitol, the district, and our freedoms. specifically, we are bringing this lawsuit pursuant to local and federal laws, including the ku klux klan act of 1871, a reconstruction-era federal law designed to protect our country
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against violent conspiracies, protect our citizens against violent conspiracies, like the attack that took place on january 6. in the complaint, which has been filed and is public, we specifically allege that these vigilantes, insurrectionists, and masters of a lawless mob conspired against the district of columbia. -- columbia, its law enforcement officers, and residents by planning and promoting and participating in a violent attack on the united states capitol. we further allege the named defendants cause substantial and provable damage to the district of columbia and, in particular, to our courageous law enforcement officers, who risk their lives, and some even died, to defend the capitol, the district and our country's
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freedoms. as the independent attorney general, i have the responsive -- i have the responsibility to enforce our laws and hold these violent offenders accountable because they caused actual, physical and financial harm to our city, its employees and a -- and our residents. so we have brought this suit for four reasons. first, accountability. holding wrongdoers accountable is an american value and it is at the core of my legal responsibility. the defendants, as you know, were not tourists, nor were they acting patriotically. they were vigilantes, members of a mob, insurrectionists who sought to crush our country's freedoms. second, deterrence. our country is a country of laws. we certainly can and do disagree on a plethora of issues both big and small.
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however, in the united states of america and in the district of columbia, we resolve our disagreements in a civil, non-violent manner. those who don't play by these rules must be held responsible to deter future violent and undemocratic conduct. restitution and recompense is the third reason why we are bringing this suit today. because, in our country, when an individual or entity suffers physical, mental, and financial injury caused by the illegal acts of others, the victims are entitled to restitution and recompense. we all agree that the tragedy of pedestrians hit by a vehicle by walking on a crosswalk are deserving of restitution and recompense at the very least.
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so too our law enforcement officers who were injured in the course of stopping a violent mob hell-bent on taking away our freedoms. again, restitution and recompense, those are american values. and in this case, the unlawful actions caused the district to deploy unprecedented resources to repel and defeat an attack on our country's capitol. during the height of the attack, approximately 850 members of the metropolitan police department were at the capitol and the immediate area surrounding it. scores of officers required emergency medical treatment and continued to receive physical and mental health treatment today as a result of physical injuries and trauma that come in many cases, -- trauma that, in
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many cases, will last a lifetime. including the unavailability of officers were not able to immediately return to their jobs protecting d.c. residence are substantial. and we will through this lawsuit seek to impose severe financial penalties on the groups and individuals found responsible. finally, we filed this suit to seek justice for the brave men and women of the metropolitan police department. police officers sign up to protect our residents. this is true, but they don't sign up for war on our country. they don't sign up to being attacked by an armed mob, beaten with bats and poles and fists and dragged down stairs, kicked by thugs. my mind was to metropolitan police department officer michael penone, a veteran officer who himself voted for president trump in 2016.
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obviously, michael defended the capitol on january 6 and video evidence of his testimony revealed that he fought valiantly against the mob. in doing so, he succumbed to the violent mob and was dragged down those capitol steps. officer fenone suffered a heart attack and a concussion as he was repeatedly shot with a taser shotgun -- shock gun and physically beaten. in his own words, some guys started getting a hold of mike -- of my gun and they were screaming out, kill him, kill him with his own gun. a father of four, officer fenone pleaded for his life. fortunately, but not before ending physically hurt and mentally traumatized, he survived. ladies and gentlemen, mpd
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officer gunther yashida, officer fry tag, and a third officer, jeffrey smith, also put their lives on the line on january 6 and they suffered mightily. sadly, they took their own lives afterwards. this lawsuit seeks justice for them, their families and the many officers who still live with the pain from january 6. let me thank you for gathering here today and now let me pass the microphone to congresswoman eleanor holmes norton, who has spent her life fighting for the equality that this country aspires for. she has spent her life fighting for the freedoms and democracy that the police officers fought for on january 6. it is my honor to introduce you again can -- again to
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congresswoman eleanor holmes norton. >> thank you, attorney general racine. i appreciate how you have laid out the purposes for this press conference and i particularly appreciate the lawsuit that you creatively are bringing. i am pleased to welcome to the capitol our other guests, who you will hear from shortly. on january 6, the u.s. capital -- capitol was attacked by individuals seeking to overturn our democratic form of government. while president trump refused to send in the d.c. national guard to the capitol, the metropolitan police department voluntarily
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responded, protecting the capitol, congress and democracy itself. despite the ongoing attack, trump delayed in deploying the d.c. national guard to defend the capitol for hours. to ensure this would never happen again and to provide greater home rule and equality for the district, i was able to get included in the house passed national defense authorization act by the d.c. national guard home rule act, which would give the d.c. mere control over the d.c. national guard -- the d.c. mayor control over the d.c. national guard. i am very disappointed however that republicans fought this provision and it was dropped from the final version of the national defense authorization act.
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in their work defending the capitol on that day, d.c. and the metropolitan police department, in particular, of course, incurred expenses. i was able to secure a $9.1 million federal payment to the district in an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that was signed into law in july to compensate d.c. for the direct cost of responding to the attack. it is appropriate that the perpetrators of the attack compensate d.c. for the other costs d.c. incurred that day , including for medical
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treatment and paid leave, which are outside the scope of the funding i was able to secure for the district. from damage to police property, to medical expenses related to the attack, the perpetrators -- by the perpetrators, including proud boys and the oath keepers, must pay the district of columbia. i strongly support and appreciate the filing of this lawsuit. >> my name is charles allen, the ward six councilmember when i heard the attorney general
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talking about september 11, i couldn't help but look up at the blue sky and remember that day and i think january 6 will be as in our nation's history. as 9/11. i am in full support of the efforts to hold accountable those who carry out a premeditated and coordinated attack not only on our nations capital but on our home and our mpd officers and residents. the impact of january 6 was felt nationwide, but few americans experienced it as personally as we did. the insurrectionists intentionally created a situation that ultimately cost lives and endangered many more. it's difficult to describe the terror that our residents, my constituents, felt during the insurrection, the pain, confusion we collectively experienced as we saw a mob descending upon our venerated institutions and desecrating it.
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i can tell you that our men and women in law enforcement and ems put their lives on the line that day, and still today they are suffering the emotional and physical harm they experienced. for many officers, it was their first time going in that building and they carry it with them, and the emotional and psychological harm and pain that they will be fighting and working on for the rest of their lives and careers. today's suit is one way we can demand accountability and, frankly, healing as a community, city and nation. i want to thank attorney general karl racine and the partners that have been a part of this for their work to seek justice for d.c. residents as we are too often an afterthought when this plays out in our front yard. my two children were eight and four years old last january. recognizing that i have to tell them and they will read about
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the history of what happened january 6. my hope is that measures we take today will be part of the story that is told as they get older and future generations come to understand what was at risk on january 6 and we come together to fight back to preserve our democracy and hold those who put it in jeopardy accountable. >> thank you, attorney general racine, congresswoman norton, councilmember alan, jonathan greenblatt. we are grateful to have you in these partners in this groundbreaking place. my name is joanna lidgate. i am the ceo at the safe united democracy center, where we are a
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bipartisan team of former federal and state officials, law enforcement leaders and security experts we help states protect our elections and their democracy. before that, i served as the chief deputy attorney general for massachusetts. i got to work with colleagues across the country, including my good friend karl racine, to fight on behalf of everyday americans and uphold the rule of law. a year ago today, on december 14, 2020, presidential electors representing both parties met in all 50 states and the district to choose our next president. the electors did their job and then they sent their choices to congress to certify the will of the american people. on january 6, 2021, the world watched in horror as the mob attacked the beautiful grounds we are standing on and the capitol behind me. it wasn't just an attack and are members of congress and public safety officers. it was an attack on our democracy. it was an attack on the american people, who made their voices heard in record numbers at the
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ballot box. our government leaders were there on january 6 to affirm the will of the american voter. our public safety officers were there to protect and serve. they were attacked for simply doing their jobs. that's why republicans and democrats alike condemned the violence and committed to preventing anything like it from happening again. and that's what this case is about. it's about holding the proud boys, the oath keepers and dozens of insurrectionists accountable for the violent assault on our democracy and the trauma they inflicted on the district and public safety officers that day. this case is about consequences and it's about prevention. and while some would like to act like we can just move on from the horrors of january 6, that would be irresponsible and dangerous. right now, we are witnessing a
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major increase in political violence in america. election lies and conspiracy theories helped fuel the insurrection in those same lies pose a serious threat to our country today. every day, because of those lies, our state and local election officials, the trusted guardians of our democracy, face violent threats and harassment. the attack on our democracy is far from over. and if we don't take action, we risk letting violence become a feature of our political life. we won't let that happen. we are a nation of laws and there are serious consequences, legal and financial, for trying to hijack an election. history tells us that accountability is critical to moving forward. this case joins a powerful line of lawsuits holding perpetrators of political violence accountable, from the organizers of the unite the right rally in
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charlottesville to the area nation -- the aryan nation and the ku klux klan. democracy is not just an institutional process. it is a living, breathing thing, a set of ongoing challenges. while the solution to those challenges cannot be found in the courtroom, the justice system has a pivotal role to play. this case is about justice for the district and for the brave officers who risked their lives on january 6. our capitol and our country are still healing and processing and too many families will never recover from the loss and trauma inflicted that day. we keep them in our hearts. today, we also reaffirm our commitment to safeguarding the democratic system, the american foundation that those officers and those members of congress were there to protect. this is an all hands on deck
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moment. we are fighting for the future of our democracy and we couldn't have better partners in that fight than the people standing with me here today, the amazing team of lawyers, the adl and leaders across this country, like attorney general racine. thank you. >> thank you attorney general racine, delegate norton, councilmember allen for having me here today along with my colleague joanna lidman. we are truly honored to work with you on this landmark lawsuit on behalf of the district of columbia against the proud boys, the oath keepers and the more than 30 individuals who coordinated an active domestic -- coordinated an act of
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domestic terrorism against our democracy right here in this place. we take this responsibility seriously. for more than 100 years, adl has worked to stop the defamation of the jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment to all. to deliver on that mission, we have been at the forefront of strategically monitoring, exposing, and countering extremist threats from across the ideological spectrum. adl experts tracked the planning for the january 6 attack on the capitol. we helped to identify the perpetrators and any connections that they had to groups like the proud boys and oath keepers we -- keepers. and we are deeply honored now to be putting that expertise at the service of the district of columbia and the brave officers who were injured or killed as a result of that day.
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no one will forget the images we saw on january 6. and for the jewish community, seeing individuals wearing anti-semitic t-shirts with images like camp auschwitz on them while storming the capitol building -- was particularly searing and traumatic. make no mistake, january 6 was not a peaceful protest. indeed, it was the most predictable terror attack in the history of our country. countless law enforcement officers suffered physical injuries and lasting emotional trauma. four officers who responded that day have died by suicide. we are here fighting for justice for them, for the sanctity of
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our nation's capitol, and for our democracy, because the violence perpetrated on that day, while unique in its severity and scope, was far from an isolated occurrence. it did not happen in a vacuum and it did not end when the crowd dispersed. the attack on the capitol took place against the political and cultural backdrop of hate and extremism that has proliferated and gone largely unchecked for the last five years. extremism has been normalized. hate has been amplified. this is about turning back that tide. it is important, because those who perpetrated the attack will not readily abandon their convictions. domestic extremists like the proud boys, the oath keepers and others continue to present a
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serious, credible, and dangerous threat to our democracy and to us all. we must respond with all of the tools at our disposal. we are all at risk if we fail to do so. accountability for january 6 is critically important to preventing violent insurrection from happening in d.c. or in state capitals across the country. and that is why i am so proud and so humbled to be standing here today alongside this courageous and talented team. thank you. and now i will hand it back to attorney general racine. >> ok. we are prepared to take any questions that you might have. >> general racine, do these guys have any assets? two parts. do you have -- do they have any
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assets that you can recoup? and my understanding is that this kkk act has been used in the past to put these extremist groups out of business, just bankrupt them. is that your intent here? >> our intent is to hold these violent mobsters and these violent hate groups accountable and to get every penny of damage that we can. let me tell you, if it so happens that we bankrupt them, then that's a good day. when hate is dispatched and eliminated, that is a good day. and so, yes, we are using the ku klux klan act and other laws to absolutely bring as much pain, hit them in the pocket, as possible. and, sir, your question is excellent because the history will show that, when these acts like the ku klux klan act and
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other laws were used against hate groups, what do cowards do, they go running, they go hiding , get decentralized, and frankly, they are less dangerous. when, as is the case today, as my colleagues noted, these groups are celebrated, told to stand back and stand by, what does that mean? that means that they are empowered. and so this is all about disempowering hate that would take your freedom away, my freedom away, and those of our children. >> mr. ag, a d.c. superior court judge -- >> the congresswoman. >> i strongly agree with what the attorney general just said. we have no idea whether these people have any assets. i certainly hope they don't as a
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matter of fact, but this lawsuit is important to have a deterrent effect. they will have to defend it. they will have to spend money defending it. so if we don't get a penny in restitution, this lawsuit's deterrent effect will say be prepared to spend money to defend yourself because we are coming after you. thank you. >> this is related to my question for both of you. the d.c. superior court judge issued a default judgment against the proud boys for just ignoring a suit and the oath keepers lawyer dropped them a month ago for not communicating and not paying him, so it makes you confident there will be restitution and recompense in this suit? >> as the congresswoman said, whether there is in fact
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restitution or recompense, accountability is important. i sure hope they try to defend the case. again, cowards, they pick on people, bully, and when you punch back, they run away, but if they do defend this case, there's a process called civil discovery and we cannot wait to propound searing questions about the finances of these individuals and these groups. from where did the money come? those restaurants we will get -- those are questions we will get to the root act in this lawsuit. >> a lot of the evidence seems related to the federal investigation and what federal prosecutors have found during the course of their investigation. have you had any conversations with the u.s. department of justice about this lawsuit and there will be -- and will
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there be sharing of any potential discovery that comes? >> at this point, it would not be appropriate for me to talk about conversations that may have occurred between the office of attorney general and this legal team and the department of justice. i think it is important to emphasize that our case is a civil case. i think it is also important to emphasize that federal judges, let's be honest, you have reported this. federal judges have been deeply concerned at the extent of the penalties that have been assessed via certain plea agreements. i can guarantee you that as we proceed we are going to seek the maximum level of financial penalties. next question, please. >> another criminal justice matter. d.c. has released its audit of the forensic crime lab. i know you have been hesitant to release that. i am curious, do you believe any of the current cases will be in jeopardy?
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>> so the reporter is asking a question regarding local d.c. matters that are quite serious concerning our independent forensic lab. that is the lab that plays an important role in processing evidence, and of course evidence that is submitted in a criminal trial where liberty is at stake, the -- at stake. the allegations around the department of forensic services has been going around for 15 months as you will dated, the office of attorney general is clearly and repeatedly stated there are grave concerns about the state of that agency. with this report, u.s. attorney's office for the district of columbia and certainly the office of attorney general, have been vindicated, because we blew the whistle. others scapegoated.
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and asked your question on whether criminal cases may have been compromised, the report in fact recommends that criminal cases that utilized forensic evidence, guns, dna, fingerprints and the like, be reviewed since the inception of the department of forensic services. this is a serious matter, but we are here today to talk about january 6 and the attempt to take away our freedoms. thanks for the question. >> [indiscernible] >> i cannot tell you right now. i can tell you that we have the review of those cases and certainly integrity in convictions whether they are juvenile or adult cases. as you know, i disagree with that notion. so certainly, we will be joining forces with them to do what is right and fair and ensure that those who may have suffered criminal sanctions were properly convicted.
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>> can we go back to january 6? >> please. >> so there seems to be some question in some people's minds about whether this was kind of a spontaneous insurrection or whether it was planned specifically in advance. are you alleging in this lawsuit that these individuals conspired well in advance? >> yes, yes, and i think that my friend jonathan greenblatt said it best. the red flags, the alarms, the shouts, the screams, the chatter were as loud as can be. and thank god for journalists. because you are probing this deeply and that's what you are finding. >> and how high do you think that conspiracy went? >> look, this capitol, literally , went undefended for nearly three hours plus.
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i don't know about you. i always look for a story at the start, the middle, and the end. the start was when people started talking about come to washington, d.c. on january 6, it's gonna be wild. the middle was more incitement around january 5 and obviously even before then. these birds were -- these groups were organizing and telling people this is the time. and don't forget, there were bombs planted in councilmember allen's ward at the dnc and at the rnc. and what was the end? time to leave. i think from the beginning and
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to the middle and end of this story, there is explicit evidence of conspiracy, yes. >> you have not named former president trump in this lawsuit. >> correct. this suit is focused on the individuals and entities that organized, planned and participated in the mop activity on january 6. as took president from -- asta president trump, let's be clear. the office of attorney general for the district of columbia and my colleagues on the democratic ag side of the aisle have sued the president over 150 three times during his tenure. now, look, i like baseball and statistics. when you win 80% of your case is that you file against the president of the united states,
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do you know what that means? that means you have called out lawless behavior, so we are not afraid to sue presidents or former presidents. our investigation and our work continues. >> sam. >> i am curious about the neighborhood thing here. so i know you are fighting to get fences down and things like that. i guess it was kind of beyond what happened just here. what do you have to say about that? >> i sometimes get asked about why do neighbors care so much about a building where we don't have a full boat, right -- full vote, right? congresswoman norton does the absolute most you will ever find without a vote and is a champion for d.c., but we felt a certain kind of way when we saw the capitol attacked, and it will
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lease offenses go up afterwards -- and when we saw offenses go up afterwards, we wanted them down, because this is the people's house, where my friends and neighbors work and give, and to see it attacked is deeply traumatic for the neighborhood, because this is not just a dome we see on monday night football. it is our backyard, our space, and to see it attacked in this coordinated way, in this hateful fashion, will strip accord not just in ward six but -- will strike a chord not just in word six but across d.c. >> --so much so that i had a built in congress to make sur the fence would be
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taken down. we have spent almost a year with the fence up, making it impossible for this part -- this is what it is, a park, as far as the neighborhood is concerned, and a deterrent to our people in the united states for reaching their own capitol it. took me a full year to get this fence down, but it is another remnant of what we experienced on generally six. >> let me just add one more thing. it is hard to anything when congresswoman eleanor holmes norton speaks for my great friend charles allen and certainly joanna and mr. greenblatt, but as to the district of columbia, we want in. we want in. we want to be a state. we went congresswoman eleanor holmes norton to vote. imagine if she had a vote.
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she is so powerful without one. so what do people do when they want in? remember what the slaves did? they fought for their freedom. what do people want -- what do people do when they want in? world war i, world war ii, african-americans, the tuskegee airmen, they fought for our country's values. in d.c., we want in. that is why our men and women in blue, some died, because the district of columbia should have representation in this house. thank you. >> thank you, everyone.
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