Sunday, March 12, 2006

Flowers Bloom, Amplifiers Boom

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) A man named Steve is dismayed Saturday evening after being ridiculed at the southeast corner of H and 8th Streets NE by the extremely loud amplified fellows from the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK). Steve was at a disadvantage in defending his views—his unaided voice was drowned out by the powered amplifier. His right to freedom of speech was trampled by the preachers’ ability to buy and use an amplifier. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Warm spring weather is a mixed blessing to the friends and neighbors in and around the700 block of 8th Street NE. The residents ventured outside and opened windows, only to be pummeled by six hours of amplified preaching punctuated by heated arguments between passersby and the fellows from the ISUPK. There was little wind on Saturday, which meant the soundwaves were a continuous drone throughout the residential neighborhood.

Lovely weather also brings more people outside to the shops and bus stops at the intersection of H and 8th Streets NE. This results in more disagreements and yelling on the sidewalk by both preacher and passerby. At one point, Yohanna—the apparent ISUPK leader from Philadelphia—stooped down from the stage made of milk crates and boards to turn up the volume of the amplifier.

The amplifier was so loud, in fact, that after photographing in front of the stage for nearly an hour, my ears were ringing. I could still hear them clearly from the doorway of my home until the ISUPK boys called it quits, sometime well after dark.

Saturday, March 11 was just a peek at the noisy weekends to come for the community. This harassment is apparently allowed by a loophole in the city law, which allows amplified, non-commercial free speech in the District of Columbia between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

This means anyone can come in from out of town—like the ISUPK gang—set up on any corner sidewalk in the city and scream through an amplifier. The residents are powerless to stop it. It’s not a fun way to spend a Saturday.

It’s time for the city council to take action to give all residents relief.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) A man named Charlie attempts to console Steve (left) as the ISUPK fellows use the amplifier to yell and laugh at Steve’s views. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

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