WASHINGTON -- A protest aimed at Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) -- who has become one of the Republican Party's most outspoken crusaders against marijuana reform -- briefly turned revolutionary on Thursday.
D.C. home rule and pro-pot activists had gathered at Harris' office in the Longworth House Office Building to oppose his attempt to meddle with the District of Columbia's new marijuana decriminalization law when one of them suggested the possibility of a much angrier protest in the future.
"And if this is the nice day, the next step will be civil disobedience and then after that, you're talking about terrorist organizations. Do you want a terrorist organization in Washington, D.C.?" asked Adam Eidinger, who chairs the D.C. Cannabis Campaign. He was speaking to Harris' chief of staff, Kevin Reigrut.
Earlier this year, Harris proposed and passed in committee an amendment to an appropriations bill that would stop the District from implementing any policy that lessens the penalties for marijuana possession. The amendment would effectively bar the city from enforcing a new local law that makes possessing the drug a civil, rather than criminal, offense. The District's measure went into effect last week.
Reigrut was meeting with District residents and other protesters as part of an action organized by DC Vote, a group that advocates for D.C. voting representation in Congress and autonomy for the city government. DC Vote had encouraged District residents to bring their municipal gripes -- like potholes -- to Harris' attention.
As Eidinger asked his terrorism-ending question, a look of concern crossed Reigrut's face. "I would suggest that you tone that rhetoric down," he said.
Eidinger replied, "I would suggest that you take democracy more seriously, OK."
"Because that's what happens in other countries when they don't provide local democracy -- people take up arms. And since I think your member is a pro-gun nut and thinks guns should be in everyone's hands -- if that's the case, then I think maybe we should call up some militia types and come here and defend the local democracy," he added.
Reigrut had heard enough.
"Thank you for your time. I'm done with this conversation," he said.
After leaving the congressman's office, Eidinger clarified that he would not join a terrorist organization or take up arms himself, but that he could see some sort of resistance developing out of the District's discontent with Congress.
The interaction came at the close of an hour during which Reigrut met with small groups of protesters in the reception area of Harris' office. Harris was nowhere to be seen during the event, but later questioned whether the advocates were interested in protecting the District's youth from the dangers of drug use.
“I only wish the members of D.C. Vote cared as much about keeping marijuana out of the hands of teenagers as they care about the right of D.C. residents to do drugs with no consequence," he said in a statement.
As debate has mounted over Harris' amendment, the congressman has repeatedly claimed that the scientific community is unequivocal in its judgment that decriminalization leads to an uptick in teen marijuana use, despite some research that suggests otherwise.
Some of Thursday's protesters were more focused on the marijuana issue, while others were driven by larger concerns about D.C. self-government. But one organizer said all were welcome.
"It doesn't matter the reason you're here -- an outside legislator's trying to institute policy for the District," said Kimberly Perry, executive director of DC Vote.
One attendee, D.C. resident Deb Stone, said she walked away unsatisfied after her conversation with Reigrut.
"I won't be satisfied until we have representation," she said, adding, "If something like this was happening, if it was Maryland residents, of course he would be here, [with] this many people to meet with him. So it just shows how he really doesn't care."