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D.C. puts up 51-star American flags on Pennsylvania Avenue NW

The move comes days before a scheduled congressional hearing on D.C. statehood

A red, white, and blue striped flag with 51 white stars hangs on a light pole outside a stately government building.
A 51-star American flag outside the Wilson Building, the seat of the District government
D.C. Council

Workers have installed scores of American flags in view of the U.S. Capitol, on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. What makes these flags special? They each have 51 stars rather than the typical 50—a symbol of the District’s longtime push to be recognized as a state. Why now? Because on Thursday Congress is set to hold its first hearing on D.C. statehood in more than 25 years.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and other District leaders including Phil Mendelson, the chairman of the D.C. Council, are expected to testify before the House Oversight Committee, which has jurisdiction over the nation’s capital, to advocate for statehood. And on Monday, Bowser will preside over a parade on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, from 14th to 3rd streets NW, at which 51 District veterans will be honored. They are among 32,000 D.C. veterans who have fought for the U.S. and among more than 700,000 D.C. residents who currently lack a vote in Congress.

“Our servicemembers are denied voting representation in the Congress that decides when and whether to send them to war,” Bowser noted in a statement. “Only through statehood can we correct this injustice and ensure all Washingtonians, including our veterans and servicemembers, are provided the voting representation we deserve.” A pending federal bill would make D.C. a state, but even though the Democrat-controlled House overwhelmingly supports it, the bill faces roadblocks in the Republican-controlled Senate and White House.

Moreover, a July poll by Gallup found that 64 percent of U.S. adults opposed D.C. becoming a separate state. (Roughly the reverse is true among D.C. adults, according to a 2015 poll by the Washington Post.) Local elected officials such as Bowser and congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who cannot vote on the House floor, took issue with the poll for not having context about the District’s dearth of equal representation at the federal level and its effects.

Over the weekend, the D.C. government also released a commercial highlighting a District veteran who served in the Iraq War and won a Purple Heart. The commercial has aired in D.C., Kentucky, and South Carolina, according to Bowser’s office. You can watch it below.