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June 8, 2008

Neighborhood Danger Zones

Dear Occupied DC:

Barricading streets, cordoning off neighborhoods, checking identities, and denying free travel and free access to forbidden zones, is a very effective tactic — if you’re an alien occupying force. It is not an effective crime-fighting measure. It isn’t a crime-fighting measure at all; it is a measure that is used to attempt to pacify a hostile native population. That is how Mayor Adrian Fenty, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier, and Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles see Washington, DC.

They are wrong. The police department is not an alien occupying force, no matter how much the city’s administration wants it to behave like one. We, the people who live in Washington, are not a hostile native population, no matter how much the administration perceives us as one. We are all Americans, and we have the rights of Americans, including the right to move about and travel freely, without having to identify ourselves to the authorities, having to inform the authorities of what we are doing, or having to seek those authorities’ permission to drive down public streets. We are all Washingtonians, and we are all in this together. (At least, most of us are Washingtonians; MPD Chief Lanier lives in Maryland, and has a rented address of convenience in DC to fulfill her occupational residency requirement. Interim AG Nickles lives in Virginia, and will only be dragged kicking and screaming into renting an address of convenience if he is forced to by being appointed the permanent Attorney General.)

What were Mayor Fenty, MPD Chief Lanier, and AG Nickles thinking when they decided to establish the so-called Neighborhood Safety Zones? There are two schools of thought on this. One school believes that they weren’t thinking. This group knows that Fenty does not value deliberation and careful consideration, that he confuses acting impulsively with being decisive. This group believes that Fenty, Lanier, and Nickles followed the primitive logic that Megan McCardle outlined ( “1. Something must be done. 2. This is something. 3. Therefore, this must be done,” and that they created the Forbidden Zones tactic without considering its implications and likely results.

The second school of thought is more cynical, so I belong to it. We think that Fenty, Lanier, and Nickles know very well what they are doing, and that they believe it will be good public relations for them to identify and carve out quarantined neighborhoods. Fenty thinks, this school of thought says, that he can divide and conquer this city. He believes that his supporters don’t know, don’t like, and don’t identify with the residents of Trinidad, DC, and similar neighborhoods. Fenty thinks his supporters fear the people who live in Trinidad and other Forbidden Zone neighborhoods, that they don’t see themselves as ever having to travel anywhere near those neighborhoods, and therefore as not ever being even inconvenienced by the police blockades. Fenty’s supporters, in this cynical view, don’t see us all as being Washingtonians who are in this situation together; they do see themselves as an alien occupying force, and they see the Washingtonians who live in neighborhoods like Trinidad as a hostile native population that must be pacified or, better yet, cleared out. Therefore, Fenty, Lanier, and Nickles believe that large-scale denials of the civil liberties of some Washingtonians will make the administration more popular and more successful with other Washingtonians, their core supporters.

The remaining question is how the barricading, the quarantining, will be carried out. Will it be a full-scale effort to seal off these neighborhoods effectively? If so, it will require massive resources and massive intrusions on our civil liberties, because that is what an occupation demands. Or will only one or two streets into a neighborhood be cordoned off at any time, exposing the whole initiative as being merely symbolic, nothing more than a publicity stunt that was never intended as a serious pacification measure?

All materials about the so-called “Neighborhood Safety Zones” — including the final revised version of the MPD Special Order establishing the Initiative and the MPD Lesson Plan given to police officers manning the barricades — are available at

Gary Imhoff


Uncovered Bodies
Tolu Tolu,

Three young men were shot at the mouth of Holbrook Street and Florida Avenue, NE, on Saturday, May 31, around 4:00 a.m. Their bodies were left uncovered and in plain view until at least 10:00 a.m. I have never seen this situation before.

The Engine 10 Firehouse had secretly closed the week before. I question whether that had anything to do both with their not being saved and with their bodies’ being left exposed for at least four hours.


Political Prose
Fred Bohrer,

Politics and Prose has long been a great resource in DC, one especially attuned to progressive politics, and presenting a variety of viewpoints. I’ve been going there for the nineteen years I’ve lived here for books, records and its virtually nightly array of speakers. Alas, it has just done something deplorable. Carla Cohen, the co-owner, has invited and then abruptly disinvited an important speaker. Saree Makdisi is a UCLA professor whose Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation describes a fundamental aspect of the current situation between Israel and Palestine. It is endorsed by Bishop Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn (who I believe has himself spoken at Politics and Prose), and a number of others. This hardly seems responsible as policy. It is especially sad from a place that has otherwise been willing entertain a long list of speakers who bring new viewpoints and perhaps controversy within the context of meaningful debate. Why are they suddenly afraid? Why this sudden intolerance from a place which has worked hard to develop a reputation for seriousness and even enlightenment? At the very least, the bookstore owes us an explanation.

[Today’s Washington Post has articles about this event by both Saree Makdisi ( and Carla Cohen (] — Gary Imhoff


Fireworks Redux
Bob Evans, Southwest Waterfront,

Obviously we live in very different parts of the city. Where I live the firework spectaculars begin about now (as soon as they go on sale) and go on almost nightly until the supply is exhausted (around mid-July). I am not talking about sprinklers or fire snakes (which I would be totally unaware of) but cherry bombs, Roman candles, fire crackers, and other so-called banned fireworks. I have witnessed from my bedroom windows some very good theatrical displays that rival the Mall’s Fourth of July presentations in both height and sound, if not brilliance. Sleep is often impossible until at least midnight and the worry is always there that one will land on my roof and start a fire. I have often had to clean off spent fire crackers from my balcony and back yard the next day after such a show.

I call 911 to report the problem with such illegal activity but nothing seems to get done. I am told that it is too difficult to enforce the rules because some fireworks are legal. OK, if that is the case, then make them all illegal if that will make enforcement easier and obtaining them harder. At this point I personally don’t care if the persons setting them off or being a willing audience gets their hand blown off or sets their own house on fire. Just leave me alone in peace. If it were just on the Fourth I wouldn’t care and could easily ignore it; if it didn’t put my property in jeopardy I wouldn’t worry; if the people having the money to buy fireworks don’t depend on public assistance for everything else then I’d still care, just not as much (does the government also give out fireworks stamps when they give out food stamps?).

But until the law is changed to make all fireworks illegal and/or the current laws are properly and strongly enforced, then I will have to continue to clog up the 911 lines making calls whenever I see (or hear) the law being broken (I do make an exception on the Fourth, however, and don’t call then).


Dog Parks in DC
Harold Goldstein,

In further response to Jonetta Rose Barras’ anti-dogist remarks [themail, June 1], let me say that dog parks do not really take away from park usage by humans. They are very well defined areas of parks and are very densely used. They don’t take away from kids’ playgrounds or walking trails or anything.

They are an asset to the park since the dog park is usually in full use when the rest of it might be empty. More people in the park means more security. Especially at dusk, this can be invaluable. For example, when the remains of Chandra Levy were found the police, essentially, regarded the dog people who frequented the area as nuisances, whereas they could have been regarded as potential information assets.

Dog parks are a win-win situation and provide low cost benefits for all park users.



Mt. Pleasant Library Community Design Meeting, June 10
Martha Saccocio,

Please join your neighbors, staff from the DC Public Library, and the architecture firm of CORE Group, PC, at a community meeting to discuss the renovation of the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library. At this meeting, the architects will present preliminary design concepts being explored. The meeting will be held Tuesday, June 10, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Mt. Pleasant Library, 3160 16th Street, NW (at Lamont Street). For more information, please visit the library’s web site at or contact Martha Saccocio at 727-1188 or


DC Public Library Events, June 10-11
George Williams,

Tuesday, June 10, 2:00 p.m., Chevy Chase Library. The Times of Harvey Milk. This film documents the rise and assassination of America’s first well-known gay elected official.

Wednesday, June 11, 1:00 p.m., Capitol View Library. Wednesday Afternoon Book Club. Discuss the book, The Appeal by John Grisham.

Wednesday, June 11, 1:00 p.m., Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Library. Shepherd Park Afternoon Book Club. Young adults, adults. Discuss the book, The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls.

Wednesday, June 11, 7:30 p.m., Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Interim Library. Knitting circle. All ages.


Urban Gardening, June 14
Ed Bruske,

Saturday, June 14, 1-2:30 p.m. Family series: Urban Gardening: Small Trees and Large Shrubs for Urban Gardens. Join Kathy Jentz, editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, as she explores the possibilities of what small trees and large shrubs you can plant in small urban lots. Tailored to the District of Columbia region and what grows best here, the choices will cover natives, edibles, and ornamentals — from full sun to full shade. For every place there is a tree that is a perfect fit. Even if you only have a few pots to plant in, a tree can be part of your urban life.

Kathy Jentz publishes Washington Gardener Magazine, its monthly Enewsletter, blog, and web site ( In addition she is the local garden columnist for the Washington Examiner newspaper and writes about gardening for Washington Woman magazine. A regular on the garden spots on WAMU Metro Connections and NBC4@4, she currently serves as president of the Silver Spring Garden Club. Ages 12 to adults. or 383-1828.


Investigating Where We Live: The River Has Two Sides, June 14
Jazmine Zick,

Saturday, June 14, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Investigating Where We Live Traveling Exhibition Opening Reception. Held at the United Planning Organization (UPO) Shaw Community Service Center, 1726 Seventh Street, NW. Come celebrate the opening of the traveling version of the exhibition Investigating Where We Live: The River Has Two Sides. The exhibition showcases student photographs of the Anacostia, Congress Heights, and Navy Yard neighborhoods taken during the 2007 session of IWWL. Free. Registration not required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.



CreateAThon Marathon to Donate Free Communication Services
Josh Davis,

Do you work for or know of a DC-area 501(c)3 nonprofit that urgently needs communications assistance, but can’t afford to pay for it? CreateAThon, a twenty-four-hour marathon of design occurring this September, can help your group. Your assistance could be help with web development, graphic design for posters, brochures or other printed items, or strategic communications consultation. To learn more, or apply for free services, download an application at Applications are due before noon, Wednesday, July 9. CreateAThon is hosted by Basis, (formerly Mediastudio), a brand consultancy that has over thirteen years of nonprofit experience. We look forward this year to helping more nonprofits to realize their communications goals.



Original Hopkins Washington Maps from 1887 on Sale This Month!
Paul Williams,

We’ve placed our remaining eighteen original, Washington, DC, Hopkins maps from 1887 on sale this week in our eBay store; they are now 35 percent off. They won’t last, so if your interested in an original, color Hopkins, get yours today! I’ve not seen these on eBay in fifteen years.

If you missed your original map, our full sized, high quality prints are also on sale this month only for 15 percent off! The map of the Howard Theater area and a map of southeast Capitol Hill are on auction this week , starting at only $22!

I’d be happy to E-mail photographs of any map, or help you find the map that might cover your individual house or area of DC interest!


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