Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dawn to Dusk, Bullhorned Bullies Rule in D.C.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Was this photo made closer to sunrise or sunset? It would not be out of the realm of possibilities for you to answer “sunrise” because the broken District of Columbia noise law provides no decibel limits for non-commercial amplified speech anywhere in the city from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. No permit is required. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

This photo actually shows an amplifier and its operators blaring at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23—almost five hours of uninterrupted noise disturbed the residents and businesses at H and 8th Streets NE.

As I photographed at the intersection, I strained to converse with a woman who represents a church near North Capitol Street. She said she wants to counter one group’s amplified message with a different point of view—she plans to bring her own amplifier to H and 8th Street because she’s unable to be heard.

“Quiet enjoyment” and “health and safety” aside, the woman’s comment illustrates one thing: Free speech in Washington is guaranteed to only the amplified few.

The council’s failure to fix the flawed statute allows bullhorned bullies to dominate the free marketplace of ideas. Citizens from all walks of life have a right to speak, debate, argue, and be heard. The D.C. city council must wake-up: It should regulate unlimited amplified decibels or provide every D.C. resident his or her own personal amplifier.

A 7 a.m. Sunday morning amplified neighborhood wake-up call can be arranged.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Rain Confirmed as Reason for Noise Absence

As mentioned before, I share a downtown D.C. office building with a member of the group which spews amplified noise pollution into our neighborhood every Saturday. He works on the fifth floor, I on the sixth. We both wear neckties.

I encountered him yesterday morning on the elevator. We cordially exchanged hellos. Then I asked why his amplified group was absent from the street corner on Saturday (Sept. 16). He confirmed my assumption that rainy weather kept the loud fellows away.

"What do you do all day when you get rained-out?" I asked.

“Nothing,” he replied. “Just a day off.”

“Yeah, it was a day off for everybody,” I said, as the elevator doors opened to the fifth floor.

“Have a good one,” he said and strode off the elevator.

“You, too,” I replied. The doors closed.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Saturday Snooze, Sunday Blues

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Saturday, Sept. 16’s intermittent rain apparently kept one noisy group away from the southeast corner of H and 8th Streets NE. Beyond the traffic noise and between rain drops, things were quiet enough to allow this fellow to catch a snooze in the alley behind the Sports Zone--the store which absorbs the brunt of amplified agitation most Saturdays. The fellow, apparently sufficiently rested, shuffled out of the alley about an hour after this photo was made. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) However, Sunday’s beautiful weather beckoned the Rev. Dallas Williams, who preached on the southwest corner of H and 8th Streets NE from about 5-6 p.m. Williams uses employs amplifier in five minute increments during his hour-long sermons. His device points east along H Street. These short bursts of amplification, while bothersome, pale in comparison to one group’s endless ranting for more than four hours nearly every Saturday. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Businesses Harmed, Numbed By Noise

A story in today’s edition of Voice of the Hill focuses on how businesses near H and 8th Streets NE are affected by--and, after three years, some have adapted to--the more than four-hours of amplified noise each and every Saturday.

By comparison, one Georgetown community--not accustomed to such weekly noise--was extremely disturbed by a two-hour June 11 amplified demonstration.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

‘Death’ and ‘Faggot’ Blare Over Bus, Trimmer

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Looking north toward H Street NE on Saturday, Sept. 9: A Metro Transit bus (left) idles and an 8th Street resident trims his yard while rude and uncooperative Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) men use an amplifier to disturb the neighborhood. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the noise from an idling city bus is about 80 decibels, while a weed trimmer is about 95 decibels. At H and 8th Streets NE Saturday, the blaring amplified speech originating from the corner was loud enough to easily be heard over the Metro bus and a trimmer at one neighbor’s house.

In fact, residents inside their homes, H Street business patrons and bus passengers could clearly hear the yellers several times proclaim, “Death to Christianity, death to Islam, death to faggots, death to the white man and death to America!”

In typical fashion, the amplified men called a passing man walking two dogs a “faggot.” The dog walker—at a disadvantage without an amplifier—simply waived them off. But the amplified ISUPK wouldn’t let up. They shouted at the man as he crossed H Street. They said he was a “faggot” and “had sex with his dogs, too.”

Noise level is one factor, but so is the sound’s duration: The bus noise lasted about three minutes while people boarded. It took the neighbor about ten minutes to trim his yard. The amplified speech spanned more than four hours.

The residents of all shapes, sizes and colors living on H Street support free speech—we simply want the amplifier quieted. A municipality should protect all citizens from unreasonable noise that disturbs “quiet enjoyment” of the community. Also unjust is forcing any person—inside the privacy of the home—to hear someone advocating for the reluctant listener’s “death.”

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) An ISUPK member uses sign language as he proclaims through the blaring amplifier “Death to Christianity, death to Islam, death to faggots, death to the white man and death to America!” That’s fine if you want to say (and sign) it, but spare the entire neighborhood, please. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

H Street Merchants Urge Noise Fix

Fed up hours of amplified noise every Saturday afternoon, a group of H Street NE businesses has asked the District of Columbia City Council for relief.

On behalf of its merchant tenants and customers, Rappaport Management Company, manager of the H Street Connection, asked Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee Chairman Jim Graham to fix the broken District of Columbia noise law. It currently allows unlimited levels of amplified non-commercial speech anywhere in the city between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. The noise disrupts residents and businesses alike.

H Street Connection is home to a number of shops in the 800-900 block of the corridor. Among them is the Sports Zone and Rite Aid, which bear the brunt of the weekly amplified tirades.

Rappaport’s complete letter:
August 31, 2006

Jim Graham
Chairman, Consumer and
Regulatory Affairs Committee
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 105
Washington, D.C. 20004

RE: H Street Connection
Washington, D.C.
Quiet Enjoyment

Dear Councilman Graham:

Rappaport Management Company is Managing Agent for H Street Connection Shopping Center. I recently took over as manager of this center; upon doing so, it was brought to my attention that various groups are setting up on the sidewalk at the corner of 8th and H St. NE. These groups are using amplifiers to project their messages and in the process, they are causing unnecessary disruption to the community. I have received numerous complaints from the tenants, patrons and neighbors regarding the excessive noise coming from the corner.

The merchants of the shopping center and the city are affected by the revenue lost due to the atmosphere created by the groups broadcasting from the city sidewalk. Community members have mentioned specifically, that they do not patronize the shopping center when the groups are broadcasting. The volume prevents both merchants and the community from enjoying a quality of life consistent with other area of the metropolitan area.

I understand that, currently, according to D.C. Law 15-214, the business owners in H Street Connection Shopping Center and the members of the neighboring community are not protected from the behavior of groups broadcasting from the sidewalk. The Noise Control Act of 1977 was amended in 2004 but, has no limitations to protect the merchants or neighbors to the center from “noncommercial public speaking during the daytime” 20 D.C.M.R.S § 2799.

We respectively request your assistance in closing this loophole which allows for amplified speech within ten feet of business and residences.

Thank you for your attention to this matter in advance. Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me at the phone number or email address noted above.


Sarith A. Ercoline
Senior Property Manager

Monday, September 04, 2006

Wet and Windy Ernesto Whips Noise

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) The remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto and an umbrella dampened H and 8th Streets NE Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006. The wind and rain was enough to keep the usual noisemakers from setting up their stage and amplifier near the intersection’s bus stop, pictured in the background. Sunday brought much more pleasant weather, as well as Rev. Dallas Williams, who, during the occasional Sunday, preaches for an about an hour with a much quieter amplifier. He also politely reduces the volume when neighbors ask. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)