- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2007

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A group of D.C. residents talked for nearly two hours through loudspeakers yesterday in Adams Morgan, calling attention to efforts to tighten the city’s noise laws, which allow preachers along the H Street corridor to blast their messages through amplifiers.

“It’s a health and safety issue,” said David Klavitter, 39, a leader for Free Speech Should Not Mean Forced to Hear. “We support free speech, but also good health.”

Mr. Klavitter waved a decibel meter at the few people gathered at the corner of 18th Street and Belmont Road Northwest and said it was reading 102 decibels.

“Ten minutes could cause permanent hearing loss,” he said, attempting to explain why the D.C. Council should amend a 2004 law to limit public speech noises.

The council will hold a hearing July 9 to discuss and consider an amendment for a noise limitation. The law now allows unlimited noncommercial noises from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“The District of Columbia needs to fix it,” Mr. Klavitter said. “It is unreasonable to subject residents and businesses to unlimited decibels. … We’re not breaking any law here. Police know we’re out here today, but there’s nothing they can do.”

Indeed, two police cars were parked across the street during much of the two hours. One officer said they were there only in case trouble erupted.

The protesters, who held a similar demonstration last year in Georgetown, were met by another group that had a message to deliver over a loudspeaker.

“The community should be free to exercise free speech,” said Shahid Buttar, 32, a lawyer with D.C. Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency.

Mr. Buttar said the group — including drummers and singers — would not violate laws and made its presence only to warn residents that a limitation on sound might result in a limitation on constitutional rights.

“Amplified speech can achieve beautiful speech,” he said, describing programs from 7 to 9 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month for four years at Dupont Circle. Mr. Buttar is also an announcer and performing artist with a musical group.

The proposed noise limits, he said, could result in “a law that would restrict or chill the exercise of free amendment rights.”

The loudspeakers yesterday were outside Maggie Moo’s Ice Cream, and across the street from Pharmacy Bar. Air conditioning and closed doors kept the high decibels from the loudspeakers outside the ice-cream shop. The music system inside the bar had the same overriding effect.

“I know there is annoyance [from the loudspeakers], but so are a lot of things,” said Mike Dingo, a Pharmacy Bar manager, expressing more displeasure about the loudspeakers waking up residents in apartments above the bar.

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