Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No public assembly in northern CH?

Just saw this message on the CH Listserve, a resident living on the 1400 block of Otis Place says there are new signs put up by MPD saying groups of more than 2 people in the area can be dispersed by police. The signs say the area where this will happen is bounded by Center, Parkwood, 14th, and Meridian.

Pretty weird, and the resident says the signs indicate it only applies to people who are doing or buying/selling drugs.

The person makes some valid points: where was the discussion about this? How can MPD tell if somebody is selling or using drugs? If they can tell, why don't they arrest them? And there's not much info on the signs to contact people.

It almost sounds like something from The Wire, where the Baltimore police let drug dealers operate in a few blocks - though I would assume and hope that's not the case.

The resident also has this to say:
I'm incredibly uncomfortable with all this. It seems like it's designed so loosely as to allow the police to clear the street of anyone they just don't like the look of, which is bizarre given that it's summer and frankly, i'd like to live in a neighborhood where people can hang out on the corner.
I'm going to go check on this tonight.

Click the map for a bigger version.


  1. Sounds good to me. I say bring back the anti-loitering laws, and crack down on public drinking and urination. There are an awful lot of unemployed, drinking men along that stretch, littering, hanging out, and leering at passing women along that stretch.

  2. true, but I'm wary when the laws start to infringe on things like freedom of assembly. I wonder if there are other ways to combat that kind of thing.

  3. I called cops last night (almost early morning, really), 3a, about kids dealing in my alley (and being really f*cking loud to boot). Nobody came. Called back; nobody cared.

    So, screw it. Cops know who the bad ones are.

  4. I don't see how this is a bad thing. Andrew, Freedom Assembly is a legit concern, but not if it infringes on public safety.

  5. This isn't a bad thing. They have done it before in other areas, mine. It's also a safety thing. Walking down the street at night when there are large groups forming on the street - it can be intimidating.

  6. You know, I understand the whole freedom of assembly and how this opens doors of regulating the innocent. But those people are up to no good standing around. I have to agree with Anon at 8:25. As a young woman who walks alone along 14th street, I can't stand the catcalls and long stares by congregating men. It's literally nonstop from Tayler to Park. It’s so common that I feel totally defenseless. My options are to take a cab, or go out of my way and walk on 16th or 13th. If the MPD wants to break up those groups, I’m all for it.

  7. Yes, because obviously people that hang out outside during summer nights are doing horrible things.

    I live in an apartment building, on the 3rd floor, with a wall A/C unit. Sometimes, it's nice to just hang out outside and enjoy the weather without wasting away in my apartment. I should not have to worry about possible arrest because I'm enjoying the weather right outside of my apartment building with someone.

    If you don't like noise at night, move out of the city. And I do believe that it has been proven time and time again that the cops DO NOT "know who the bad ones are".

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. this also opens the city up to lawsuits based on racial profiling and discrimination- which of course if they lose the case will come directly from the tax-payers.

    Not only is this a possibility; but i would say a promise considering how proactive people reacted to the trinidad 'hood check points.

    If they want to prevent dealing then they should fund recovery programs!

  10. Many thanks for giving this issue some light, Andrew. I'm the original poster. This is a photo of the notice on my block.

    What's so disconcerting about this is the complete lack of visible process and communication there's been about this. You see the signs but no contact information is listed (other than, bizarrely, Chief Charles Ramsey who is, at last glance, no longer the police chief); I combed through every listserv, message board, and blog I could and found no information (official or otherwise) from either before or while the signs have been up; There's been a silence from the police department that verges on a deafening roar when I tried to get in touch with them directly (which I have done twice now).

    The other thing that amazes me is that this is the same sort of policing strategy that eventually started the Mt. Pleasant Riots of 1991. In that situation, police tried to prevent groups of people from public gathering, eventually leading to a death in disputed circumstances, and two days of rioting. Are we headed down the same path?

    We need to learn how this was implemented, by whom, under what authority, why we weren't asked, why we weren't told, with whom we should speak, if this is an isolated incident, and, most importantly, **what are the measures for evaluating the success or failure of this strategy?** Without the last, this isn't a strategy that has shown itself to be effective or been particularly popular among neighborhood residents (the very similar Anti-Prostitution Zone provisions and the Trinidad street blockades for example).

  11. So how do they know someone is dealing drugs? Magic?

  12. Are all the apologists for the loitering crowds of men on 14th Street living in the same reality I am, or are you off in a slightly different quantum reality in a parallel universe? The fact that someone died on the street there, and no passers-by thought it was unusual to see someone apparently passed out on the sidewalk should be indicative of the typical goings-on there. Groups of un/underemployed men hang out at all hours, drinking from those black plastic bags from the liquor stores, and they lend a threatening atmosphere to that stretch, especially to female pedestrians. My wife occasionally runs up that way (she is a serious runner for fitness) and has been repeatedly harassed with the most vile comments imaginable. I think most law-abiding residents would welcome the reestablishment of anti-loitering laws, except maybe aging hippies like Phil Mendelsohn and others who live in a bleeding-heart-soft-on-crime fantasyland. In my opinion, one's right to "peaceably" assemble is trumped by the right of women, 50% of the population, to walk by without fear, and without being humiliated and harassed. If you want to hang out on the street all day, don't drink, don't urinate, don't litter, and have some respect for women!

  13. I think it's a dangerous game to criminalize the unemployed, particularly when we're in the midst of a recession. In DC, that would mean criminalizing a tenth of the population, including me. If you're linking unemployment to street harassment, the logical solution would be to make sure people have jobs, not lock them up.

  14. No, anonymous 10:30, I'm talking about chronically unemployed drunks, who I'd venture to guess aren't looking for work anyway. I would suggest walking by that stretch and scoping it out. It's pretty obvious I'm not talking about the recently laid-off here.

  15. Anon at 9:36 - I'm just worried that the cops will harass any person just hanging out on their porch, like many other commenters have said. Obviously if somebody's drunk or dealing drugs, the cops should make them move on or arrest them (depending on what they've done).


Please don't advertise in the comments, and please enter some kind of name when you comment instead of being anonymous.

If the post is more than 28 days old, your comment must be approved first.