On October 4, 2018, the DC City Council held a hearing on proposed Noise Abatement legislation: B22-839, the “Amplified Noise Amendment Act of 2018,” and B22-900 the “Amplified Noise Amendment Emergency Amendment Act of 2018.” The Cross-River Dialogue submitted the following testimony.
I am here as a long-time resident of the District and a member of the Cross-River (Black-Jewish) Dialogue.
The Cross-River Dialogue is a small group of District residents focusing on improved understanding between Black and Jewish communities and between interests east and west of the Anacostia River. As Jews, we recognize the importance of investigating and honoring “custom of the place” in decision-making, official and unofficial, and we know the horrors that result when our culture is not protected but criminalized. As members of black communities, we’ve known centuries of attempts to ignore, erase, and criminalize our cultures. Together, as the Cross-River Dialogue, we ask the Council to actively work to protect the existing culture of our shared city and to refrain in every instance from criminalizing residents and visitors based on a narrow set of interests.
We applaud amending the “noise disturbance” law to exempt demonstrations, along with “parades and public gatherings.” It is essential that the District protect the rights of those from in- and outside town to express themselves under the First Amendment; this is our city’s special responsibility, of course, as the national capital. It is also essential, however, that the District protect the rights of our own residents and visitors to express themselves.
Those of us who moved here from other parts of the country chose to move into an existing cultural center; while we are free to express our own culture, we are not free to displace those here before us. Those of us who have lived here all our lives deserve respect and protection of our government, even as we make room for newer cultural interests.
We support modifications of this legislation proposed by the artistic community to accommodate needs of different groups, including musicians and those who live and work on some of the louder streets in town. While this legislation can – and should – be tweaked so that it does less damage than as originally proposed, the Cross-River Dialogue asks the City Council to rethink any legislation that privileges the interests of developers and newly zoned residential areas over others in town. Instead of trying to fine musicians, for example, the City Council could ensure that developers and others who profit off new residential zones bear the burden of making those zones habitable, through insulation, sound-proofing or other measures.
Black and Jewish history teaches that treating one group of people as a problem to be solved in appeasing another group has lasting, devastating consequences. We will not survive as a city if we do not create and implement more inclusive visions for growth and change.