DC residents will gather in Columbus Circle on Indigenous People’s Day, Oct. 12, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They will hold a voter registration drive, advocate against aspects of the Union Station redevelopment plan and draw attention to the what they call the “violent name” of Columbus Circle, where Union Station is located.
Equipped with masks and hand sanitizer, volunteers with the District hub of the activist organization, which works to end the climate crisis by centering racial and economic justice.
Volunteers will spread out across the circle, engaging passersby in conversation about their voter registration status and their plans to vote in the 2020 elections.
The location and timing of the Arm in Arm action will focus on current issues surrounding Union Station’s redesign plan and the namesake of its address. Earlier this year, the plan to redesign the District’s transit hub drew swift backlash from city residents and the business community alike and attention to a division over whether it is a hub for cars or for people, centering on questions of parking, pick-up and drop-off as well as the facility for large buses.
Much of the debate about the redesign centered on the expansion of the Union Station parking garage, slated to have 1,600 parking spaces. “Such a large number of private vehicles stands at odds with both the city’s Vision Zero initiative and Sustainable DC plan for an environmentally-friendly city of the future, and gets in the way of the accessibility and transit improvements that are the purpose of the station’s redesign,” wrote a representative for Arm in Arm DC in a press release.
Arm in Arm DC is also calling for a name-change for Columbus Circle, where Union Station is located. “Each time the visitors or residents pass through the city’s train station, they are reminded of the violent colonization of the country, both by the street named Columbus Circle and a massive fountain featuring a prominent statue of the colonizer himself, standing in perpetuity over a kneeling Native man,” read the press release, noting that the event will take place on Nacotchtank and Piscataway lands, adding that the symbols “are irreconcilable with the nation’s march towards racial justice and equality, especially for the thousands of Native people who now call the District home.”
Demonstrators plan to visibly alter the circle in order to draw attention to injustices brought against Indigenous People. Arm in Arm DC said they have plans to conduct a small act of ‘disruptive humanitarianism’. Additionally, local officials have been invited to attend to share brief remarks.
“The direct action will remind people that city’s transit hub is located on a street named after a man whose life was characterized by abuse and murder towards the native population of the Americas,” said organizer Keya Chatterjee.
Arm in Arm DC also plans to increase registered voters. “It is through grass roots movements such as today’s voter registration drive that the District slowly moves towards having all of its eligible residents registered to vote.”