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This is a federal case a weekly show that takes up an issue of government in Washington D.C.. National Educational Radio Network. Well there are three rocky islands all. That are legendary. Ground of the bridge. Crossing the river which is one of the top. OK so break a rule right. Say this program is going to be a little story or a fable about what it's like to live in the District of Columbia. There is even a good title for the tale. It's called The Three Sisters bridge or
stop the bridge. Free D.C. Now if you don't live in the District of Columbia you may not know a few things you may not have ever seen a bumper sticker that reads D.C. Last Colony. This is not just a place where the president lives or where the Congress takes care of business and your local school comes for spring vacations. Washington D.C. has a large local population which is 80 percent black. It's a very divided city between people who make a lot of money usually working for the federal government and those who make very little money or none at all. There is no subway system in the district. There are buses but not a great many bus fares have gone up three or four times just in the last year. And if you want to take a 15 minute car trip across town it takes you an hour on the bus. Washington is a very polluted city considering that there are no large industries here. Finally Washington D.C. is the only place in the country where the people don't get to vote for the men
who run the city. They don't have home rule. The United States Congress runs this city along with the mayor appointed by the Pres.. And you just listened to a description of what the three sisters are there rocks in the middle of the Potomac River which winds down one side of the district with Virginia on the other side. Now a bridge is starting to be built over these rocks and some of the people in this town things that's a very bad idea. In fact they see it as a very good issue from which to talk about everything that's wrong with living in the federal city. You're going to see how it works. The story kind of tells itself first you're going to hear a few excerpts from a rally that was held recently on the steps of the building where this appointed mayor works. I'd like to introduce Governor chairman of the Committee of 100 who would like to say if you were. Unfortunately many people in the vast majority are in favor of the
priestesses freeway and the total freeway system. This has come about because of the gap that we have in the city because the way it has been treated in the. Last speaker before the board of elections we've been fighting this battle as much as most anyone here in the city. Have. Thank you Mr. Tariq Association. His party which would block the construction of the tree says this case is before the court of appeal that the one who has been the leader of the Georgetown students who I think
really the catalyst for getting the city once more thinking about this once this tragedy that's happening on the Potomac and I think he and the other Georgetown students we owe them a great deal of gratitude for their courage. We are gathered together on the steps of the District Building. To witness another manifest failure of the so-called liberal democracy in the District of Columbia this building on the steps of which we are gathered. Houses the pathetic clique of the so-called mayor and his henchmen the city council who purport to be the legitimate government of the District of Columbia. I ask you. What sort of allegiance and respect. Can we honestly have. For an appointed puppet government who one day. Claim to act in the name of the people. And the
next sellout when the pressure comes down from absentee landlord Congressman William natur. When a cracker from Kentucky and his lackeys on the House District Appropriations Subcommittee. Can pull off this sort of blackmail. Trading subway funds for District revenues and a commitment for our so-called municipal government to pave over the city and wreck the urban environment we can no longer fail to recognize that the District of Columbia is a colony and that we are ruled under a form of neo colonialism. The relation of our movement to the anti-war movement then is most apparent. Just as we are struggling to stop US imperialism abroad. We must fight to smash domestic colonialism in the Mother Country.
And uniting to stop the construction of naturist family the three sisters bridge we have built a bridge of our own that binds us in solidarity with oppressed and exploited people in this county and throughout the world. This will not pass. With the people. The people know that. Again I say power to the people. Stop the bread fruit is a great day. Now you're going to hear one fellow Matthew Andrea who was the last speaker at that rally explain the three sisters bridge story as it developed for him. I've been in Washington now for six years. I'm a graduate student at Georgetown University in the history department. I also did my undergraduate work there and having grown up in the Midwest in an area where environmental
problems more or less don't exist except in the big cities. I always assumed that rivers were clean and lake should be clean and the air should be fit to breathe and things like this and came out of Georgetown and shortly after my freshman year began. I was more or less recruited perhaps even drafted to be a member of the crew teams they thought that I'd make a good Coxon simply because I didn't weigh very much and I had for four years. A very intimate association with the river and its surroundings. Each year when I came back to school in the fall I felt that I was noticing the deterioration of the landscape surrounding the river most particularly of the river itself. During my first rewrite I noticed certain amounts of pollution and so forth. By the time I graduated I was able to pick out what were insecticides what was oil what was detergent and what was just untreated sewage
and different days there would be different quantities of each of these things and I became more and more alienated more and more actually angry about these different abuses. Exploitation of the landscape of the natural environment to the point where when you see all sorts of dead fish floating in a river you know that is after the weather's been quite nice that it's probably not the result of natural causes. Also during these four years I noticed the increase of congestion of traffic on key bridge we will be rolling back and forth under it. More more traffic more and more noise up there and of course the invisible factor which is really the most insidious and that is air pollution. Now the Washington call issue for clean air has some figures that I obtained last week from a government survey that indicated that in the
Washington metropolitan area alone in the period 1966 to 1967. One million. Four hundred thousand tons of carbon monoxide were released into the air from vehicular use. Whereas during the same period only three thousand tons came from sources such as. The disposal of wastes for industrial use Actually we have no industry in Washington except the government. It's quite an industry. OK so I started that this was on the increase and just generally the environment was deteriorating more and more down in the area of the capital I notice expressways being built that were. Neither tunnel nor elevated but were more or less trenches dug in the ground frequently as wide as 8 lanes which more or less completely partition
neighborhoods. But again I'm still doing my undergraduate work at this period and. My critical analysis of these problems had developed at that point I just knew that I was angry about certain things but I am not seen only in the related or connected in any way. Then. While I was on the crew team I heard several times a proposal to build a bridge across the Potomac in the area of three sisters. And just realizing all the traffic and so forth that Washington already had and. Thinking that that location for bridge was rather absurd since it is in an area that is quite undeveloped it's either parkland or very very low density residential area where what's happening with building an expressway bridge and so that during this period the whole issue was on again off again with the bridge being in turn approved and then disapproved by the National Capital Planning Commission by the
Congress by the D.C. highway department and it was always in this usually in the state of limbo. No action. Then last year I moved out of the Georgetown area and into the Dupont Circle Adams Morgan neighborhood. I was more or less taken away from a river that had been really a mourning factor in my life for a long time and I more or less forgot about the river except for the occasional. Canoe excursions things like that. But one day in this neighborhood I happened to encounter a map. That showed a proposal for an expressway to run up from Rock Creek Park up Florida Avenue and then down U Street. And I suddenly realized that. Really no matter where one went in the city of Washington. There was always this impending threat that one's neighborhood would be split up and paved over.
And relating this to my former experience of hearing about the Three Sisters bridge I decided to begin investigating. The issue. And found to my total dismay that these two things were not disconnected but all were part of one very large massive network of freeways intended to be built in Washington between now hundred fifty nine and nine hundred seventy three. These things had been actually approved by the Congress of the United States in the 1968. Highway Act. And that gradually over the next few years funds will be allocated for the construction and the construction will take place. And. Doing a little further investigation and then becoming involved in a group called the Emergency Committee on the transportation crisis. I realize that
this process would inevitably mean the destruction of as many as 8000 housing units. The displacement of 25000 people. About 95 percent of whom are black. Who live in the inner city and who can afford less than any other segment of the population. To make this sort of move when they're displaced. And after a little more investigation I. Found out that the priority of the highway department. Was first to build the three sisters bridge. Then to build a parkway that would run on the Potomac down to Georgetown waterfront. Come up Rock Creek Park. And go up Florida Avenue and then down U Street. Displacing all these people. What is proposed is a matter of 30 miles of concrete river.
Summer six lanes wide others are eight lanes wide which means they are either 1 and a half or twice the time twice as big. AS. Freeways generally are. They're designed to handle an anticipated extremely large volume of traffic coming from the suburbs into Washington and leaving Washington and going out to the suburbs. So what you have in a city that already has a fairly high population density. Is breaking up neighborhoods. And. More or less forcing people either to crowd in more with each other. This is particularly true in the black inner city. Or else move out of the suburbs because the city area of course is a smaller circumference smaller volume and. You begin to pave this over with massive doses of concrete and you get problems. I will grant the
fact that possibly the expressway could handle a fine of traffic while the traffic was on the expressway. But man what happens when these cars get off the expressway where they go. And the problem is that our city streets are already overcrowded during the rush hours and so forth. And if you encourage more people. To drive in their private automobile into the city. Number one traffic congestion will increase of course. Number two the only obvious increase in pollution and number three just on the economic basis. Hourly parking rates in downtown Washington are incredible right now 80 cents an hour for the first hour and then a little bit less later. But a person generally pays two dollars and fifty cents. To park. For an 8 to 10 hour period downtown.
What seems to be generally happening is that the city is being sculptured in such a way so as to benefit people in the suburbs. People who have higher income jobs and who can afford private automobile transportation who can afford these high parking rates and who don't have to breathe the pollution 24 hours a day. All this seems grossly inequitable to me and something that should be tolerated. As far as the social problem is concerned. The way that these. Freeways will be laid out will be in such a way as to divide. The District of Columbia into a number of small pie shaped segments. That are separated by these molds or whatever and just bridged over by by a few streets. And the problem here is then that a community that for a long time has been very disunited but which in the last few years has begun to. Coalesce into some sort of a movement for Home Rule and for
preservation of the environment itself or it. Will be split up and. This is sort of acceptable the final issue that I wanted to get out was the political one which is very complex but I'll just mention it briefly. The 1968. Highway Act. Was passed as a supplement to the 1966 Highway Act. And it was passed because during 67 and 68. In Washington. There was a very popular movement against freeways against any additional concrete within an automobile's within the inner city. What happened was on the one hand there was a referendum during the Democratic primary and one of those years in which we were proposals were heavily voted down. There were a number of hearings all of which came to a very happy no decision.
And finally there was an injunction placed on the 1966 Act that said that these things could not be built. The sixty eight act then says the freeways must be built. Quote. Any previous court or. Any previous legislative decision or administrative action notwithstanding. These roads must go through. So what you have involved here is a complete subversion and manipulation of the democratic process to the point where it's no longer democratic. In other words those who believe the traditional form of American government believe in a system of checks and balances in this process though. The house Public Works Committee and the house DC. Committee. Made themselves into legislative executive and judicial units all at the same time. Some of the enemies of the people are for one Mr
George Broyhill who is a congressman from Arlington. He's southern. He's a racist. Another one is a congressman William natural from Kentucky who. Serves as chairman of the. House D.C. appropriations subcommittee. And after the 68 Highway Act was passed there was still tremendous resistance within the District of Columbia to its implementation. And so what happened then. And it was just this summer while an awful lot of people were worried at the time. We're out of town. Was that when natur. Blackmailed the appointed city council in the following manner. He said that he would withhold subway funds and all revenues from the District of Columbia unless the district government
gave the go ahead and a freeway system particularly on the three sisters bridge and that the city council backed down. They sold out when the pressure came down from above so suddenly I realized that. What we had before us. Was an issue. That was at the same time. Political. Sociological. Economic. And ecological. It was one thing. That more or less brought all the different forces that are at play in America today. Into one focus point. And I think finding things like this right now is a little bit difficult because everything is so complex and there are so many problems that do besides society but the things were so broad. That I really felt that it was never too early for building our mass public movement and it was something that
one didn't have to hear to any particular radical philosophy to realize that this whole system of freeways bridges and so forth were something that would result in the further deterioration of the environment. Now Matt Andrei is going to tell what he began to do about the situation. I began. With a number of friends to produce a way in which. Some sort of public opposition to this could be demonstrated because even when construction began most of the people of the District of Columbia didn't even know that it was happening. Finally we hit upon the idea. Of attracting publicity to the fact that construction was beginning and the fact that there was a significant amount of unhappiness about this in the community among people who knew. By getting a group of students to go out and camp on the silence starting Friday October 10.
So we get this very hush hush. It was interesting because we were sure that if we got the word out that the harbor police. Our other friends would be out there in one way or another blocking access to these islands. But they are public parkland and we were able to keep it secret. Friday October 10th we got Robles. Moved out there. A peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Drank some wine. We form the media that we were out there on Saturday. By Saturday they were gotten out we were visited by 70 people came in all types of boats canoes robots and so forth. When they got to the island rather than just picnicking we laid down. The issues you know just while we were there we had strung up a 20 foot barrier between two trees that were clinging to the rocks on the banner to claim stuff to be seen from
all the Jason areas of the river. So people began to know what we were about. Right now you may think that this whole three sisters bridge thing is kind of a joke that is just a story and it doesn't matter very much. A tiny issue. But believe me to the people who not only work but live in the District of Columbia it's an issue that's about as important as the Vietnamese War. In an unofficial referendum recently 80 percent of the voters said they were against building this bridge. Indeed here in Washington this may be the year of the three sisters bridge the year the people got the power. The year they stopped the bridge and free D.C. Here's what they hope. I really think it's possible to stop the construction of this way. Yes. OK you have let's look at the different attacks that are going on OK one is a possible congressional heel which has not begun yet which is passed. Right
now there are two lawsuits. In the District Court. Challenging the bridge and challenging the system three ways. The one case is based on technical procedural violations. You know other words. There were supposedly supposed to be two public hearings. Every second of the freeway that was slated to be built. These public hearings have been held. You know the construction is going ahead without it. Then the whole issue of the Congressional Black man on things like this are being contested in the ones too. Then there's an amicus curiae brief which is dealing with some of the environmental and ecological issues. Then there's another case being introduced by the end of ways the Legal Defense Fund which is demonstrating how this type of freeway system discriminates against blacks and puts them into a situation in which they can't cope. And he is
objectively racist. And I think there's a good chance we will know within 60 days what the status of these court cases are. But the result of either of them or both could be a permanent injunction against the bridge. On the other hand. We're not putting all our eggs in these baskets. The number of citizens our. Students are. We're committed to a little bit more radical action. We've gone down to the construction site a number of times and have been able to block construction delay or harass it in one way or another so as to. Bring about some pretty heavy losses to the construction company. The type of loss that we live with that has been completely nonviolent nondestructive to property simply blocking the access road blocking construction machinery from moving preventing trucks
carrying cement and so forth from getting on to the site. Simply by the presence of human bodies which they would have to run over or mangled somewhere or another two to get through. Do you think if we successfully think you'll stop the construction of the bridge. Yes. RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT. This is been a federal case. Your correspondent and Zille. It was distributed by the national educational radio network.
A Federal Case
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National Educational Radio Network
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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"A Federal Case" is a weekly program produced by the National Educational Radio Network which examines current political topics in the United States and Washington, D.C. Each episode features interviews with experts, members of the public, and lawmakers concerning a specific issue of government.
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Producing Organization: National Educational Radio Network
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