Congresswoman Jokingly Denies Letting Zebras Free Despite 'Recent Opposition to Fences'

Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C. has jokingly denied releasing five zebras recently found wandering around the district's neighborhoods despite her "recent opposition to fences." She has opposed security fencing surrounding the U.S. Capitol.

The zebras escaped from a herd of 39 that were recently imported to the privately-owned farm, Bellefields in Prince George's County, Maryland, WUSA reported. The zebras wandered neighborhoods for several days as animal control workers tried to lure and re-capture them within an enclosed area.

Norton explained that, at the time of the animals' escape, she was at home enjoying quiet time with her family. Therefore, she couldn't have released the zebras, despite her well-known opposition to fences.

D.C. congresswoman Eleanor Norton free zebras fences
Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C. has jokingly denied letting five zebras loose in her district's neighborhoods, even though she opposes fences. She has supported a “campaign against fencing off the Capitol” as a safety measure following the January 6 riots at the Capitol. In this photo, zebra roam free in front of the Nairobi skyline at the Nairobi National Park on January 8, 2008 in Kenya. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

"My alibi is solid," she wrote, "but given my career of fighting for statehood for the District, which includes years of explaining the importance of having consent of the governed, and given my recent opposition to fences, I can understand why the charge was made."

"I hope the owners find the zebras and that all involved live long, full lives," she added.

While no one had seriously accused her of releasing the zebras, she provided an alibi to bring attention to a more serious issue: D.C. statehood.

Norton represents the District of Columbia in the U.S. House. While she can draft legislation, she cannot vote. As such, D.C. citizens experience "taxation without representation." They pay federal taxes, but cannot vote on the federal policies that affect them.

Furthermore, Congress can override laws passed by the District's elected officials or approved by local voters. Congress can choose to veto them with the president's approval or deny funding, effectively killing them. As such, Congress blocks the District's ability to self-govern.

For example, Congress denied funding to a marijuana legalization measure approved by 65 percent of D.C. voters in 2014. Congress also denied funding to help low-income women access abortion, a district initiative.

Additionally, Norton used her "alibi" to highlight her opposition to fences—namely, the security fencing that surrounded the U.S. Capitol.

The fencing went up after the January 6 Capitol riots. During the riots, hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the federal building to try and stop Congress from certifying the election victory of now-President Joe Biden.

In February, Norton introduced the "No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act." The Act would've prohibited the installation of permanent fencing on Capitol grounds.

"Although I agree that more needs to be done to protect the Capitol complex..." she said when introducing her legislation, "the Capitol complex has become an untraversable fortress surrounded by frightening fences capped with barbed wire, typical of authoritarian regimes."

She called the fences "security theater" that makes the Capitol "'look' safe but mask[s] the lack of state-of-the-art security measures that could actually prevent attacks in the future."

She also said the fence sends the message that U.S. democracy fears its own citizens.

"Already, the distance between government and the people has grown, with trust in government at historic lows," she added. "We should not entrench that distance further by placing intimidating barriers between ourselves as public servants and the people we serve."

In July, Norton's office declared victory when the Capitol removed its security fencing. However, Capitol Police have announced their plan to possibly re-install temporary fencing for the September 18 "Justice for J6" rally.

The rally will be attended by far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The demonstrators will demand "justice" for the hundreds of alleged insurrectionists arrested in connection with the January 6 riots.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has said that the fencing may "not necessarily" be part of the Capitol's defense plan on the day of the protest.

Five people died during the January 6 insurrection and roughly 140 police officers were injured. The police injuries include a broken spine, a lost eye, lost fingers, brain damage and multiple cases of PTSD. Two Capitol Police officers have died by suicide since the insurrection.

While ransacking the Capitol, the rioters shattered windows while trying to access congressional chambers, smeared feces in the hallway and stole computer equipment, potentially constituting a national security breach.

Newsweek contacted Norton's office for comment.