PRINCE GEORGE'S NIGHTCLUBS
Protesters Offer to Be Part of Solution
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Representatives of the Washington area's go-go community marched on Prince George's government yesterday to protest County Executive Jack B. Johnson's order to close nine popular nightspots.
About 100 singers, musicians, sound engineers, and club owners and operators marched in Upper Marlboro from the Show Place Arena to the County Administration Building about a mile away to deliver a message to Johnson (D) and his administration: Let us be part of the solution to the violence that has recently plagued the county.
The march, organized by Peaceoholics and the Go-Go Coalition Inc., put the protesters on the path to conflict with county officials who say the clubs have contributed to the violence. The protesters aired their concerns about the closures and pitched ideas on ways to stem the violence to County Council members, who met with them in a special session.
Speakers offered suggestions such as requiring people in clubs who get in fights to attend peace training, copying the IDs of troublemakers and establishing security standards.
"The go-go community is full of resources, people who are on the ground floor," Jahar Abraham, 40, co-founder of Peaceoholics and a member of the go-go band Familiar Faces, told the council. "You have a body here of hardworking people who are willing to help."
The marchers vehemently oppose last week's decision by Johnson to close the clubs under a law passed to address establishments that pose "an imminent danger to the public."
Five of the clubs reopened after a judge granted attorneys a temporary restraining order. On Monday, a judge signed off on a deal for several clubs to remain open while negotiating with county officials over security plans that could include hiring off-duty officers.
Johnson's action came in the wake of 11 homicides in 11 days in the county. Police have said that they have received hundreds of calls about noise, crime and violence in and near the clubs. Johnson targeted the establishments as part of a larger effort that included establishing a task force to address violence.
Yesterday's march was peaceful, but a tense moment occurred when a spokesman for the protesters was denied permission to enter Johnson's office to deliver a letter outlining their concerns. Johnson aide John Erzen said he would have to deliver the note, and in an ensuing encounter, chief of staff Michael Herman drew the ire of the Go-Go Coalition's legal counsel, John Mercer, when Herman touched him on the arm.
"Please don't touch me," Mercer told Herman, saying that he found the gesture condescending. Herman quickly walked away.
Mercer turned to the marchers. "We are like elephants. This will stay in our memory banks. We will be back, and Jack Johnson will meet with us," he said.
The marchers said they think that their music has been unfairly maligned and linked to violence.