“this is not about the content at all just the noise level”

black hebrews 2009 ch
Columbia Heights metro, 2009

“Dear PoPville,

Is there a noise ordinance or something that would turn down the loud and abrasive demonstrators regularly outside the Chinatown metro? I’m all for public protests of any kind and this is not about the content at all just the noise level … Appreciate any insight.”

69 Comment

  • Chinatown is loud even without these people. They’re annoying but they aren’t hurting anyone.

    • These guys are highly entertaining..

    • Noise at night (DC’s noise ordaince) doesn’t go into affect until 2200. (10pm) but with that said, this group would be excrising their first amendment right. DC also doesn’t mandate people or groups to have permits like some other cities.

      Needless to say, probably not much you can do. Sorry.

      • Free exercise clause will protect their rights re content, but almost certainly not volume since the noise ordinance is generally applicable and religiously neutral. Though if there’s no daytime applicability, I agree that there’s not much recourse.

    • They hurt my ears when I walk by.

  • Under the Noise Control Act, the maximum allowable noise level in a commercial zone is 65 dB during the day and 60 dB at night. My guess is that these noises exceed that, but from a practical standpoint, I doubt there is much that the city will do to abate this issue. On a personal note, I find the noise as well as the message to be quite annoying. These groups are part of the Black Hebrew Israelites which are basically the black equivalent of the KKK. These performers are an embarrassing facet of our city.

    • KKK are cowards who wear hoods.

    • This group is nowhere near the level of the KKK.

      • Well, Tom Metzger, the father of the American white supremacy movement and a former leader of the KKK, classified the Black Hebrew Israelites as the counterpart to his organizations. So this is coming pretty much from the horse’s mouth.

        • I don’t give much credibility to anything a former leader of the KKK says. These guys may be abrasive and hateful but they aren’t burning buildings (or worse).

          • “I don’t give much credibility to anything a former leader of the KKK says.”
            .
            I dunno, I think when it comes to the subject of hate groups, Metzger might know a thing or two.

        • I hear nothing of this group burning crosses, attacking people, or anything else associated with the kkk, so I’m taking a white supremacist perspective about a black organization with a grain of salt.

          • “I hear nothing of this group burning crosses, attacking people, or anything else associated with the kkk.”
            .
            Well, notwithstanding that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Black Israelites to burn crosses, my guess is that he was referring to the Black Israelites not as an analog to the actions of the KKK, but rather the belief system. Anyway, the SPLC also classifies the Black Israelites as black supremacist (and a few various sects of the movement as ‘hate groups’).

    • This provision does not apply for non-commercial noise (i.e., protected 1st Amendment speech):

      20 DCMR 2799 Noise disturbance…A noise shall not be considered a noise disturbance if it is made during noncommercial public speaking during the daytime and does not exceed 80 decibels inside the nearest occupied residence in districts zoned R-1A, R-1B, R-2, R-3, or R-4.

      FYI, the nearest applicable zone to the Verizon Center is over at 10th and N, I believe. Therefore, it is only a noise disturbance if it exceeds 80 decibels inside a residence at 10th and N.

      • Yes, i’m aware of that provision but chinatown is not zoned residential. So the original ordinance still controls.

  • yeah, these guys are real bizarre…and extremely loud and abrasive…

  • Ally

    Last week these guys were out and tried to take back their regular Friday corner from a very good cellist who had set up shop an hour or two prior. He stood his ground and kept playing while the regular group — apparently unphased by his excellent rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine — kept telling the crowd they were going to hell. That cellist made a lot of money that day.

    • I was actually thinking about this very thing. It would be nice if someone else came along and occupied that piece of the sidewalk before these crazies arrived.

  • Sorry, but for me it’s also about the content.

  • My complaint is about the noise AND the content. There were some African American guys down there a couple of weeks ago (they are always there) but not in these costumes. They were preaching (screaming) trash about white people in general. It was disgusting. Can you imagine if white folks stood at a metro screaming each night about black people.

      • +1. This is true. (Although I’m pretty sure white people have screamed about black people at various stages of history in a similar fashion… just not at this metro station.)

        • And not in 2015.

          • May I introduce you to a Trump rally? People were yelling for a black protester to be beaten and burned this week. One even yelled a Nazi slogan. At another rally they were violently beating a black man while Trump spoke.

          • Um yes. Definitely in 2015. The “if a white person did this there would be an uproar” argument is lazy and stupid. White people have been doing ridiculous shit for centuries AND in the year 2015 without repercussion. You’re forgetting that there are far worse consequences at stake than a black twitter verbal lashing.

            Stop arguing for so vehemently for the right of victimhood, when you deserve it black people will be more than happy to give it to you.

          • Yeah, anyone who says that whites don’t scream at blacks … or muslims…. or hispanics… or people of color in general in 2015 is in denial.

          • Not in 2015, but, one of my earliest memories of DC is being stuck inside the Natural History Museum with my parents one day because they failed to check the news and see that the KKK had gotten a permit to march on the Mall that day. Definitely heard much worse that day about black people than the Black Israelites ever say about white people. Also, I get told on a pretty regular basis I’m going to hell, it doesn’t phase me; hearing people say that people should be lynched, or you know, actually lynching people? THAT scares me.

          • to clarify…white people do not scream about black people at this metro station in 2015.

          • You’re the sort of person who contends racism ended in 2008. I can assure you it’s alive and well.

          • …I think the point was that a group of white people standing on this exact corner in DC, spouting hate speech would not last a weekend…I agree…I don’t think anyone said racism is over in America…this was a very specific example that took about two replies before it was distorted into something else…

          • “…I think the point was that a group of white people standing on this exact corner in DC, spouting hate speech would not last a weekend…”
            .
            Tbh, I would disagree with this. But that’s just my opinion.

          • “…I think the point was that a group of white people standing on this exact corner in DC, spouting hate speech would not last a weekend…”
            .
            I agree. Usually when white people are out in force making hate speech in DC (for instance, Westboro Baptist Church pickets, those people who wanted to burn a Quran a couple days ago in front of the White House, the Aryan Nation parade back in 2012, etc), they are met with a big counterprotest contingent.

          • All those groups went out of their way to seek national level attention. I’m sure that has much more to do with the response than their race.
            I suspect a good chunk of this city has no idea these guys exist. Educate the people and protest if you feel that strongly about it.
            It’s a little sad that you’d immediately jump to what amounts to a reverse racism argument with no consideration for anything else.

          • i don’t think jasmine is saying it doesn’t happen, just that there would be an uproar (as there should be). i think these guys have been here so long, they’re just viewed as the village crazies, so people tend to ignore them.

        • Are you talking about Donald Trump he does that already he is running for president

    • or in front of schools, and at rallys, and online and oh wait. Its already happened. Not excusing The Black Israelites of course.

    • white folks haven’t been historically oppressed/enslaved or continue to be discriminated against actively by people of color. i imagine your experience a few weeks ago was quite uncomfortable and there’s no dismissing it. however, you’re comparing apples and oranges in a way that ignores history/the experiences of black people by white people since (long before) the foundation of this country.

  • current version of DC’s noise ordinance was originally inspired by a really really loud and obnoxious preacher who used an amplifier all damned day at 8th and H Streets NE. Drove everyone nuts. Even louder and worse than these guys in Chinatown.
    At the very last minute, the city council legislation that would have prohibited this crap was sabotaged by the unions who wanted to be able to use amplifiers and all the noise they could possibly make during picketing and demonstrations at local hotels, offices, and other sites. Tommy Wells knuckled under. The other council member fell right into line with their union campaign donors and masters.
    So thank a union boss.

  • There is a group of religious crazies that like to post up on the corner of 11th & U Streets NW at around midnight on Friday and Saturday nights and shout into megaphones at all the passersby. I always call the police as soon as I hear them, and they are usually quick to respond. Props to the cops!

  • The most disappointing aspect of their hate speech is how shallow and poorly thought through the arguments / claims they make are.

    They don’t hold up to the most minimal of scrutiny, yet I’m worried they’re recruiting young men under the guise of intellectual and historical accuracy.

    • these guys actually recruit people? isn’t all hate speech shallow and poorly thought through, in a sense…

    • Genocide, slavery, and white supremacy of have been argued with less.

    • Apparently one of my younger cousins is a follower. Her boyfriend as well. It’s very disturbing. I try to keep my interactions with them to the bare minimum.

    • And here I thought the most disappointing aspect of their hate speech was the hate aspect of it….

    • The same could be said for generations of Lost Causers, whose take on post-bellum U.S. history dominated for nearly 150 years (see “Dunning School”). Hell, “state’s rights” is still an acceptable response to the question “What was the Civil War fought over?” on the U.S. citizenship test — so even new Americans are being led astray.

      These loudmouths on the corner are a non-factor by comparison.

      • I find the arguments that the civil war was not about states rights to be somewhat disingenuous. It was about states rights. States wanted to determine for themselves that it was ok or not ok to allow slavery. As far as I’m concerned the idea of states rights is entirely about officially sanctioning states to make morally repugnant decisions…. On slavery, gays, abortion, all that stuff… Slavery and the civil war was just the first attempt at the rise of a taliban like group in America.

    • They’re religious extremists. Scrutiny is not their strong suit.

      • oddly enough, nobody is calling for mainstream jews/christians (it seems like the black hebrew israelites draw on aspects from both) to condemn them as “extremist” groups who don’t represent the majority of [insert religious group] .”

  • It bothers me when people scream racist things outside the Metro. But this is life in DC.

  • I wouldn’t call these guys harmless. They frequently have an abused statue of the Virgin Mary as part of their gig, with “idol” written on it. A direct affront to Catholics, tying in to age stereotypes. I wish they would go to school. Or something.

    • Well it is an idol, and Black Israelites are certainly not the only ones who see it as such.
      What harm are they causing with this abused statute? I guess if you call someone’s hurt feelings as harm, ok…?

  • I’m kinda questioning the oversized turbans and gold/silver lame belted caftans topped with outsized jewelry and bracelets all while preaching -or is it screaming from a bible, are they the second coming or a bad Star Wars knockoff?

  • I worked on Jim Graham a few years back to introduce an ordinance that would simply prohibit any stationary amplified sound on public space. Play your cello on the street corner – sure. Play your cello with an amplifier over 55 decibles, no. Same for speech. Shouting hateful nonsense (or poetry) as loud as you can on street corners – fine – free speech. Using an amplifier – no. When these guys set up their loudspeakers at the CH Metro, I can hear them inside my home, half a block away.

    • Sounds reasonable to me. Why didn’t it get traction?

      • Union opposition, see above. And, I agree with others’ sentiment that protesting is fine, protesting with a megaphone crosses a line. While everybody has a right to free speech, everybody also has a right to be able to not hear blathering drivel from blocks away. Scream and yell all you want, but you’re not entitled to do so with artificial amplification.

      • Jim Graham, though I definitely credit him for some improvements in the neighborhood, is a political person, not an objective or intellectual thinker. I accept that as part of messy city governance. He simply avoided the issue, claiming first amendment instead of simple noise ordinance. He would not consider noise or public rights at all. Sad. I do understand the politcal machine, but still wish for better.

  • Are you talking about Angry Black Man Friday? Take it for what it is….(fill in the blank) and keep it moving.

  • I know the practical answer to this question, but hypothetically what kind of law enforcement response would happen if equally annoying “counter protesters” set up with an EVEN LOUDER PA system to blare the ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS HOLIDAY ALBUM directly across the street? It would be a cacophony, for sure, but at least it might drive away the Black Israelites the same way that blaring classical music prevents surly teenagers from hanging around parking lots. Making a nuisance might be the only way to get MPD to enforce the noise ordinance?

  • In practical terms, it doesn’t really matter how loud it is; MPD has not issued it’s officers any instrument which can be used to measure decibels. Before you think about buying your own, bear in mind that for evidence gathered by an instrument of measurement, there are strict calibration standards, which this law actually specifies.

  • This is a city. Don’t move here if you don’t want to hear loud noise (says everyone here about beer gardens).

  • Wanted to post another comment on this thread after a band started playing on the same street corner this week. They’ve been playing for about 5-6 hours 3 out of the 4 days this week and their music is clearly audible inside of an office space cater-corner from the Metro stop halfway up the block on 7th Street. I feel like this is even worse than the people who amplify their voices on Fridays because it there are no pauses and the length and frequency of the performances. I’ve noticed large crowds watching the band play too, which is probably going to encourage them to continue to come back as I am sure the tips are good. I’m curious to see what happens when they show up on Friday which is the typical day that the demonstrators show up and if it’ll just be competing noise all afternoon.

Comments are closed.