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Protesters Raise a Ruckus Over Noise-Bill Delay

Capitol Hill resident Patti Shea protests near the home of D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who led a recent effort to delay a bill to limit loud public speech.
Capitol Hill resident Patti Shea protests near the home of D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who led a recent effort to delay a bill to limit loud public speech. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 9, 2008

Shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday, people in bathrobes and mismatched pajamas peeked out their windows and doors to see what all the racket was about on the 3100 block of P Street NW.

On the red-brick sidewalk, soaked by a steady drizzle, were four angry D.C. residents and two amplifiers -- making enough noise to rattle the Georgetown neighborhood for blocks.

David Klavitter, Patti Shea, Gretchen Brandt and Pamela Froggin say they live with the same level of noise every weekend in their section of Capitol Hill, where street preachers plant themselves at Eighth and H streets NE with loudspeakers.

They thought the clatter would be quieted last month by the D.C. Council. But that was before Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) got six other council members to join him in delaying a noise-reduction bill after union activists said the legislation would limit free speech and the preachers' rights.

So the protesters gathered at the crack of dawn across the street from Evans's home to practice a little free speech of their own. They were joined by one of Evans's two golden retrievers, which started barking from the window.

The demonstrators loudly called on Evans to allow the bill to pass. It would restrict noncommercial public speech during the day to no greater than 70 decibels. Fines would be assessed for louder speech measured 50 feet from its source.

The decibels reached yesterday -- recorded in the 90s by Klavitter's noise meter -- left Evans's neighbors ticked.

"I just want to shoot them," said Sarah Donze, 21, a George Washington University student.

She paused, then added, "With a tranquilizer."

"This is my Saturday off. I was going to get up this morning anyway, but I wasn't going to get up until 9."

The worst part? "We can't understand them," she said, gripping her umbrella and staring at the demonstrators.

The amplifiers, one covered with blue tarp and the other by a broken black umbrella, muffled the noise and produced feedback that sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

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