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Marion Barry to supporters: I'm not going anywhere

A defiant D.C. Council Member Marion Barry told a packed Baptist church in Southeast Washington on Tuesday night that despite the decision of the City Council to censure him and strip him of his committee chairmanship, he doesn't plan to fade away.

"I have no intentions of going anywhere," said Barry, speaking to a crowd of several hundred who were there for his State of the Ward address, which he said had been scheduled long in advance.

"I want to fight for you, still. ... I want to uplift you, still. ... More importantly, I want to do all I can to put some money in your pockets," Barry said to applause. "They may take my committee chair. They can't take my dignity."

Barry's remarks were a departure from the subdued tone he exhibited earlier Tuesday, when he pleaded with Council members to spare him the latest in an infamous string of political embarrassments.

The Council also referred allegations of public corruption to the U.S. attorney's office for possible prosecution. Those allegations stem from an investigation by Washington lawyer Robert S. Bennett, who concluded that Barry took a cut of a $15,000 contract he awarded to his then-girlfriend, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt. Barry violated conflict-of-interest rules and impeded the investigation, the report said.

At the church, Barry looked more like a king before his subjects than a politician facing possible criminal investigation. As pastors laid hands on him and prayed, anointing him with oil and shouting of the power of God to heal the afflicted, the crowd of several hundred lavished praise on the man who they say has always supported the
young, old and downtrodden among them.

At one point in the night, Bishop C. Matthew Hudson asked everyone in the audience at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church who had gotten something from Barry--a job, a promotion--to stand up. At least three quarters of the crowd of several hundred rose to their feet.

"We love you, Marion!" shouted one man later on.

It's not that Barry can do no wrong in the eyes of his supporters. On the contrary, they say they recognize that he has stumbled repeatedly, but that only makes him more human, easier to relate to, easier to be salvaged by the Christian rhetoric of forgiveness that filled the sanctuary for hours.

To many supporters Tuesday night, Barry was something better than innocent: He was redeemed.

"The Bible says judge not lest you are prepared to be judged!" cried Hudson. "Our mayor has a sickness that all of us have--yours is just not public!"

Many in the audience agreed.

"Everybody in this world makes mistakes," said Jerome Brown, 36, a maintenance worker at a local church. "I'm pretty sure he's a good, spiritual person. ...If somebody else goes in the seat they might have their own issues."

"I still would vote for him," said Katrina Blakeney, 35. "No matter what he did, he was a good man. ...Everybody's entitled to mistakes."

Of course, his support does not stem simply from the compassion of his constituents. Barry--who was referred to throughout the night as "Mayor"--is also seen as having brought home the bacon over the years through efforts to find jobs for youths, assist the elderly and
promote upward mobility for underprivileged Ward 8 residents.

It's a record he sought to highlight in his remarks.

"When I came here some 45 years ago, Washington did not have a mayor, didn't have a city council, didn't have an elected school board, didn't have any voting rights except for president. But I got busy. Went to work," Barry said. "I'm telling you all this because you're not going read this in the Washington Post. You're not going read this in the Washington Times. ...My leadership transformed downtown... I don't care about the credit. I just want the results."

Throughout his speech, Barry also continually played on an us-versus-them theme, often blaming the woes of the ward, and his own troubles, on an unnamed "they" who he vowed to keep fighting.

"They may take my committee chair. They can't take my dignity," Barry said, riding a wave of applause. "They make take my committee chair, but they can't take away he solid, black middle class that I helped build. .....They can't take the Giant up the street from me where we got 200, 210 employees from Ward 8. ...They can't take my hard work.
They can't take my successes. They can't take the summer job program from me..."

"Look at the income of Ward 3, and the income of us over here--the gap is as wide as this church. That has to stop," Barry said. "We're not going to be disrespected in Ward 8. ...It reminds me of segregation. When I was brought up we used to get the last of everything. And so here in Ward 8, we get the last of everything. No more. No more. No

He went on to call for boarded up buildings to be revitalized, for ravaged roads to be repaved and for a "massive" new job training program.

"26,000 families, 75,000 people, are without adequate housing. Isn't that a shame?" he asked. "We tried to get Mayor Fenty to do something; he wouldn't do anything. We [aren't going to] wait on him. We're going try to do it ourselves, as much as we can. I'm gonna try to find ways in the budget to fund some of that."

The question now is whether Barry, in his diminished political capacity, can really bring home the bacon anymore.

-- Jonathan Mummolo

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  March 3, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council , Marion Barry  
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Next: Marion Barry plans 'quiet birthday party'


Marion Barry's career hasn't been going anywhere for 10 years now.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 3, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

"...They can't take my dignity."

True, they can't take what isn't there.

Posted by: JONJJ | March 3, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Of course Marion's not going anywhere.

Just as racist southern poor white trash of the 1950s voted for Bull Connor types, regardless of their record, racist Ward 8 poor black trash of today will continue to vote for Barry regardless of his crimes.

Posted by: ronStrong | March 3, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Barry's poor health will have him dead soon enough.

We can celebrate then.

Posted by: kenk3 | March 3, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"I want to fight for you, still. ... I want to uplift you, still. ... More importantly, I want to do all I can to put some money in your pockets," Barry said to applause.

The above quote is the problem with Marion Barry and his political agenda ever since he was Mayor.

It's not about "putting money" in the pockets of Ward 8 residents. It's about improving education so that people are better equipped to compete for jobs, stimulating economic growth and business development in Ward 8 to create more job opportunities, coming up with creative ways to provide assistance to families in need while providing incentives for getting out of public housing and off public assistance, and making Ward 8 neighborhoods safer, cleaner, and more sustainable by encouraging civic engagement and guaranteeing that the same resources are afforded to Ward 8 residents as are to the residents of the rest of the city.

He has made a career of exploiting poor people under the guise of helping them. That makes him all the more criminal than any contract scandals or drug possession charges.

Posted by: At-willEmployee | March 3, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

One of his staffers should have the nuts to show him how ridiculous he sounds. His comments recall a great scene on the TV shown 'Family Guy' when Lois gets elected becuase all she does in response to media questions of her platforms or issues is say '911'. The crowds go wild and cheers for her. Mayor for Life's 'money in your pockets' is his go-to slogan. I agree with the other posters that the best way to help his residents is to look internally and help the schools and get parents involved in their children's lives.

Posted by: cubs-n-colts-n-07 | March 3, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

They didn't have to take away his dignity...he already did that himself. Barry is a has been.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | March 3, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

How much money has this thief and race-baiter put in those people's pockets over the past 40 years? And yet they still line up and vote for him like sheep going to slaughter. I often wonder who is dumber - Barry or his supporters ?

Posted by: johnfchick1 | March 3, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Shame on the DC Council! I'm against all forms of pernicious censureship. Mr. Barry has been an outspoken advocate of respirations and he should continue.

Posted by: jsavagelaw | March 3, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Barry, shut up.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 3, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

contrary to what the step and fetching thoms and gayblades on the DC Council and their supporters think, the majority of the citizens of DC still strongly support Marion Barry.

lets here some stories about the rest of the aforementioned Council members and their thieving ways and boyfriends on the public payroll.

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | March 3, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

This man is crazy. Why is he still in public office? What is it with poor people and Marion Barry? They love him. He needs to retire from public office, PERMANENTLY.

Posted by: brandip_77 | March 3, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The only place he's going to go is to the street corner for more crack. What a disgrace and a boffoon.

Posted by: blackforestcherry | March 3, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

What you losers don't realize is Barry is not the problem. The fact that he is the champion of a significant population of DC residents is the problem. How disenfranchised can they be if Barry is championed as hero?? How about someone else step up and make poor, undereducated, unemployed citizens living east of the river their priority?!? How in the world do you tell people to cast aside the only voice they have? What's the alternative??

Posted by: venus31 | March 3, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"At least 200 supporters gathered in the pews at Matthews Memorial Baptist, first to listen to Pastor Matthew Hudson, who before anointing Barry with oil said: 'Don't you think you can be the councilman of east of the river Ward 8 and not get in trouble. Let me tell you, the position is trouble."

-From the City Paper (why is the City Paper's version of local events always better than WaPo's?)

It's so sad that so many tow Barry lines that something was done to him, instead of holding him accountable for his actions. It's sad that these words would come out of the mouth of a pastor who leads a congregation of young people looking for guidance. There are definitely life lessons in Barry's story, but if this is the only thing they take from it, residents of Ward 8 will always be under the hill of "da man" and it will be by their own doing.

Posted by: loved1 | March 3, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Marion Barry even with all of his transgressions is a great man, and will live in infamy in DC politics and history.
He has and does work hard for the poor and underprivaledged and has done a lot for the city. A lot more than any of you bashers up here who haven't done nothing for probably anybody but yourselves. Ever since the 1970's this man has been a public servant and has GIVEN of himself and did the best he could. He is human and has made many mistakes just like EVERYBODY but because of his public personna it is magnified, and publicized. God Bless you Marion Barry, keep on keeping on. I'm not a DC citizen but I have admired you for years and I'm in your corner!

Posted by: 72Redskins | March 3, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

This man is a disgrace to the people of Washington.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | March 5, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

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