Sunday, September 09, 2007

Note to a Councilmember: Bill Will Enhance Protest Rights

District of Columbia Councilmember Kwame Brown during the July 9, 2007 hearing on the pending D.C. noise bill. (Copyright © 2007. David Klavitter)

Councilmember Kwame Brown
At-Large
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Suite 506
Washington DC 20004

RE: Unamplified Voices Will Remain Exempt from Noise Limits

Dear Councilmember Brown:

Thank you for co-sponsoring the “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007” (Bill 17-177). As a journalist and former dues-paying member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), I share your concern about ensuring citizens’ right to protest, while protecting residents from unreasonable levels of noise.

Ward 6 residents of the H and 8th St NE community urge support of this bill.

One important note was not made clear during the July 9 Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs hearing on the noise bill. The District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) already includes the following, which Councilmember Tommy Wells’ pending bill does NOT change:

DCMR § 20-2704.8 “The unamplified voice shall be exempt at all times.”

Unamplified voices are and should remain exempt from the District’s noise ordinance. We support this provision, which protects large gatherings of people energized on issues of critical importance—such as labor rights or Darfur.

If enough people are energized about an issue, they should dominate the public debate—not one person with a big amplifier.

As a matter of fact, the pending bill actually enhances free speech: D.C.’s current law violates the right to free speech for those without—or with smaller—amplifiers.

The result: Individuals or small groups cannot possibly compete if money and volume is left unchecked. The amplification devices will just get bigger and bigger until only one or two views can be heard.

Again, your support and understanding for all sides is greatly appreciated. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

David Klavitter

Cc:
Councilmember Mary Cheh
Councilmember Marion Barry
Councilmember Jim Graham
Councilmember Tommy Wells

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