Monday, June 25, 2007

'I Can't Sleep!'

Adams Morgan residents react to amplified noise blasted from 18th and Belmont Rd NW during the Second Annual Amplified Free Speech Day in Adams Morgan on Sunday. The woman screamed at amplified H Street NE neighbors that the raucus awakened her. She huffed away, along with two followers who also made their feelings known. Notice the empty chairs at the restaurant behind her. (Copyright © 2007. Patrick Keefe)

Quest for Quiet is NOT about limiting free speech. Unlimited decibels and long durations of loud noise--no matter what the source--inflicts harmful health and safety consequences upon those affected.

Any doubt? Just ask the girl with the extended middle finger in the above photograph. Or the Belmont Road resident whose two sleeping babies were awakened.

That clearly was illustrated in Adams Morgan during the second annual Amplified Free Speech Day. Furious Adams Morgan residents and businesses were urged to contact Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham and support the now pending “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007.” A public hearing is scheduled for July 9.

Meanwhile, several media outlets covered the carnage. Initial reports found this writeup in the Washington Examiner. Its lead paragraphs:
The cacophony at the corner of a busy intersection in Adams Morgan on Sunday afternoon seemed to have accomplished what Quest for Quiet intended.

The headline, however is misleading--free speech does not mean forced to listen. In fact, the proposed bill actually would strengthen free speech rights to those without the aid of an amplifier. Read the complete story here.

A Washington Times story ("Protesters raise voices against lax noise laws") appears here.

Blogsite DCist covers the story--with a number of reader comments--here. It includes a readership poll on the issue.


Anonymous Joseph Fengler said...

For those that think this is limiting free speech, please click on the below link. This is a letter from the DC OAG that outlines that removing the 2004 loophole will not violate the first amendment right to free speech. In fact, DC is the only city in the country that OAG could find with the special "super" speech entitlement:

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given that the folks in Adams Morgan seem to believe that you don't have a right to be annoyed at the noise, maybe you should make it a regular event through July 9so they can see what you go through every week. It's pretty ironic that they're complaining in one breath that you're waking people up, but in the next breath, oh who cares about some preacherss.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Lonnie Bruner said...

Dear Everyone:

I am a seven-year resident of Adams Morgan and I fully support what David Klavitter and Quest for Quiet are doing 100%.

While residents of Adams Morgan have come to accept drunken, non-amplified noise every Friday and Saturday night, we don't understand what it's like to have every Sunday's peacefulness shattered by amplified noise. Mr. Klavitter does.

Unfortunately, this is an issue that Klavitter has been been forced to contend with for years simply because he lives in a poorer part of our city.

I am not associated with Q4Q and have never personally met Mr. Klavitter myself, but I have visited his block during the height of the street preachers' barrage on that neighborhood, and it's not only amplified loudness, but racist, sexist, and extremely homophobic.

There is a loophole in our city's law that permits an aural assault that most never have to think about. Thankfully, there are people like Klavitter that are bringing this issue to people's attention so the loophole can be closed and people can live without amplified noise, and in turn, a lower quality of life.

Through these types of efforts that Klavitter did this weekend in Adams Morgan, we will eventually all benefit from (one day) not having to hear amplified tirades anywhere in the District of Columbia.

I hope.

Lonnie Bruner
lonniebruner AT gmail

8:15 PM  
Blogger red storm said...

I'm sorry, David, I sympathize with your plight, given your close proximity to the noisy H street preachers, but I'm going to have to disagree sharply with your tactics here. I live in your neighborhood and am well-aquainted with the Sunday afternoon rants on H street. Like you, I'd like to see reasonable noise standards enacted and enforced -- with an emphasis on reasonable. After all, those who don't like the noises of the city might want to consider the bucolic quiet of the Virginia or Maryland suburbs. Further, your behavior here is just about as hypocritical as it gets: First you cry around about how terrible it is to endure amplified speech in your neighborhood, only to turn around and blast another neighborhood with the very same mechanism you despise. It's also ironic that you play the demographics card to top it all off "they'd never get away with this in Georgetown." Now, why is that? You've moved into a rapidly gentrifying area of town, but change doesn't happen overnight. Don't worry, city zoning laws, increased property taxes and suddenly enforced vagrancy / loitering laws will soon rid H street of its "riffraff." You chose to capitalize on the gentrification of H street and now you're pissed off because it's not happening fast enough for you. I don't fault you for this. I DO fault you for inconveniencing other people in the name of your cause.

There are other, better ways to influence public policy that don't involve ruining a complete stranger's afternoon. Unfortunately, you chose this route for the attention you thought it would bring to your cause. I guess you think the annoyance factor drives home your point, but do you think any of those people are going to be on your side now? Seems to me, with this tactic, you're advancing nothing more than your own unpopularity.

Didn't your mother ever tell you that two wrongs don't make a right?

12:36 AM  
Blogger Klav said...

Thanks for your comment, Red Storm.

This issue is about turning down the amplified volume by fixing a loophole created in 2004--long after many of us chose to live near H Street NE.

This is NOT about removing anyone--"riffraff" as you say--from H Street NE. As a matter of fact, the Rev. Dallas Williams, who preaches at 8th and H St NE on Sundays, has been doing his gig since the late 1950s. He is an interesting, dedicated and extremely polite fellow.

The neighbors and I do not seek popularity with Amplified Free Speech Day--just action. Most people--save for the Lonnie Bruners of the world--pay no attention to our community's four+ hours of noise disturbance each weekend since the loophole was enacted in 2004.

But when people in Georgetown and Adams Morgan are inconvenienced ONCE for only TWO hours, everyone notices.

Your comment makes my point.

9:06 AM  
Blogger red storm said...

As I stated in my comment, I'm your neighbor. I am well acquainted with the amplified noise on H Street as, like you, I hear it every Sunday.

My location is not my point, which you seem to have missed, if you conclude my comment proves that your strategy is working.

I witnessed some of the reactions from the community you disturbed and from my perspective, you did nothing more than diminish your own credibility.

Of all the people you "reached" that afternoon, how many minds did you actually change? You can make the argument for illumination of your plight but do you really think the angry man with the sleepy babies is going to swing his fist and say "there ought to be a law...!" or do you suppose it more likely you were collectively dismissed as some jerk ruining an otherwise beautiful afternoon?

I understand your perspective on the noise you encounter every day. In fact, I'd say I support some reasonable regulation of that noise. Of course, of all the issues our city government needs to take action on, this ranks pretty low on my list. I hear the noise too; but I just chalk it up to living in a colorful and interesting city. Nonetheless, I have no problem with your efforts to have your problems with this sound addressed.

I simply think what you did in Adams Morgan was not only extremely inconsiderate, but also counter-intuitive and, unfortunately, kind of feckless. So I'm genuinely curious why you discredited yourself like this when it seems like you've got the wheels of civic activity turning already. Sure, you were noticed, but with the attention and esteem normally reserved for a mosquito.

Bottom line: You made your problem somebody else's and now you can't ever claim the high road on this issue and now you're less likely to get support from individuals who would otherwise have been quite sympathetic to your cause.

There's no difference whatsoever between you and the makers of the street noise on H street, now, except that you made your noise with the express intent to ruin some the afternoon of a group of people who never did anything to you. Maybe the father of those sleeping babies ought to invest in a bullhorn and park himself outside your window for the next fortnight? I mean, come on. Not only did you wake up his kids, you boasted about it on your blog. Wow. Not cool, Klav...

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Red storm: C'mon, you don't live in the immediate area around 8th and H. If you did, you would know that the rants are on Saturday afternoons and not Sundays (as you noted in your post). I wish I lived where you lived so I could be just as unaware of the issue at hand - I (and my ear drums) mean that with respect and sincerity. Also thanks for your attempted support regarding capitalizing on gentrification, but we don't really need that because that's not the motive or the issue here - it's a health and safety issue. Nothing more. I think you might be projecting some of your own feelings about the neighborhood onto our motive behind our cause. Unfortunate for you indeed because this is really a wonderful community (save for five hours of speech on Saturdays amplified to dangerous and unhealthy levels according to the EPA). I encourage you to get out more and interact with all of the community and you'd realize that the neighborhood is just fine the way it is. Further, please don't refer to the rich culture of our neighborhood as riff raff. I think words like that are hurtful to the people in our community even if you put it in quotes. I don't know who you are referring to with these terms, but I've had only positive interactions almost daily with the people in my community on the way to the bus stop, shopping, eating, etc. on H St. Even the Saturday preachers are pretty civil considering I've disagreed with their chosen method to project their voices. Again, this is an amplified speech issue. You certainly are in line when you express an opinion about the Adams Morgan protest , but I don't think it's productive to bring your own judgmental speculations into the argument.

6:54 PM  
Anonymous I love my quiet street! said...

Oh hey red storm, I completely disagree with you. Yes that sucked for the Adams Morgan 'hood and Klav didn't recruit any supporters (don't think that was his goal), but boy did he get the press! Sorry, but that's the most effective way to bring an issue to the masses. Really, were any of those people in Adams Morgan planning to testify at the hearing and then changed their minds because of Klav's protest? They don't give a shit what happens at some corner in the NE section of town. Too bad for the Adams Morgan 'hood that their afternoon was ruined because someone with an ax to grind chose their corner. But if they don't want to deal with city noise, then they should just move to the suburbs. I live on a really quiet street and as long as Klav doesn't figure out where I live, I can continue to make this smug argument!

7:25 PM  
Blogger Klav said...

Red Storm:

Please know I do appreciate your thoughts about Amplified Free Speech Day, but they come too late: the 2006 Georgetown and 2007 Adams Morgan events are history.

That said, I think I speak for all H and 8th St NE residents and business owners when I say we remain open to any ideas and persons willing to help fix what broke in 2004: the city noise law.

Among the "high road" tactics we've tried during the past two years:

* Asked politely for people to turn down their amplifiers;
* Mediation;
* Noise enforcement;
* Wrote letters and visited city councilmembers;
* Testified on the noise issue before the city council;
* Documented sound levels with a decibel meter;
* Blogged about the negative effects of ongoing noise on residents and businesses;
* Blogged about nonamplified people's free speech rights being trampled by bullies with amplifiers.

What are your proactive ideas?

9:59 AM  
Blogger red storm said...


This isn't my battle, so I'm not offering proactive ideas -- that's your job, my friend. But you can bet when something IS my battle, I remember that two wrongs don't make a right. It's the social contract -- don't screw up my afternoon and I won't screw up yours.

Klav, trying other "high road" tactics and having limited success still doesn't give you the moral right to blast a neighborhood with your problem. I think what's bothering me the most is the way this blog seems to giddily recount the angst of the community or the hearing-damaging decibel levels that you and your counter-protesters unleashed that afternoon. It suggests malevolence, but I really don't think you did it to be a mean person. I think you did it because you think it's okay to BE a problem because you HAVE a problem. And you think the means were necessary to justify the ends. And I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

I know I'm tossing around after school lessons like the golden rule and there's another one that starts "if you don't have anything nice to say..." so trust me, I thought twice about hitting you on your blog.

I don't really make a practice of flaming people online. Still, you claim to represent all H and 8th street residents and I don't like that. Maybe you're only talking about this in a narrowly defined way, but I live right around the corner and don't like the implied representation.

Now, Anonymous, I'm not really sure what to say to you, except to suggest you create an identify for yourself, even if only online, before you flame. Your pathos and sentiment-ridden comment rang false to me and I found it offensive. I live at 7th and H, NE and I love the neighborhood. You don't know anything about me, so please spare me your patronizing encouragement to get out and get involved with our shared neighborhood. Frankly, I'm not sure I see the point in further discourse with someone who either doesn't recognize irony in social commentary (my use of the word "riffraff") or is being deliberately obtuse.

Klav, look, I don't completely agree with you on the noise fix to begin with, but that's not really my main problem. Still, it's worth mentioning. I understand that not all regulation is tantamount to a limit on free speech, but I'm also not sure amplified speech really poses any kind of danger to you. It certainly doesn't pass the "'fire!' in a crowded theater" test, and I don't buy the health and safety issue. (An oncoming subway train in NYC reaches nearly 100 decibels. Now THAT is a health hazard). My guess is that you're not registering those sound levels in your living room or even your front yard, but I haven't read your entire blog, so maybe you are. Either way, it's beside the point, since my main problem is not with your battle, but with the way you're waging war.

Plus, I DO buy the idea that the free speech of the protesters is encroaching on your rights, given the proximity to your home.

You've got every right to complain. Obviously, I know you've done your homework and worked other avenues to pursue the end you want, and I respect that, even though I don't wholeheartedly endorse the efforts. But c'mon.

If the pissed off denizens of Adams Morgan took up residence at 8th and H street and blasted you, I'd say you had it coming.

Well, okay, that's enough out of me. I think your blog is well-written and often compelling. I respect your effort. I simply wanted to give voice disagreement with very specific tactics and now that i've done that, I'm going to stop replying to further comments. Thank you for the discussion!

11:21 PM  
Blogger Klav said...

Red Storm:

Like everything in life, out of hearing, out of mind.

Noise probably wouldn't our neighbor's radar either...except we're bombarded with it. In our bedrooms. For hours. Every weekend.

Even when we don't want to think about it, the constant drone permeates the skull. We are forced to hear. And so we respond.

Actually, several residents from the 7th and H St NE block are involved in the quiet effort.

I must agree with you that some 8th and H Street NE neighbors are indifferent toward our effort: They attend Gallaudet University.

Discussion is important. Let's keep it up, both online, and most importantly, in the neighborhood.

10:13 AM  

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