To hear him tell it. Calvin Woodland, a neighborhood youth leader, is a one-man army bent on driving the droves of drug pushers out of his Southeast neighborhood.
He has beaten them with sticks and told them to get out. He has complained to authorities. He has sometimes "stood vigil until 3 or 4 in the morning," he says, but when he is not around some 20 or 30 drug dealers take up their posts around 24th and Hartford streets SE, an area police concede is one of the worst drug trafficking areas in Anacostia.
Shortly after midnight yesterday Woodland, a former professional boxer, loat a round. He got into a fight with an alleged drug dealer and several of the dealer's friends appeared. Someone started shooting. "It was just like we were in Vietnam," he said, describing how he grappled with suspects and rolled around the ground trying to dodge pistol shots. His son and a teen-aged friend rushed to help; one was shot in the arm, and the other clubbed in the head with a beer bottle.
The victims were treated and released at Greater Southeast Commnity Hospital. The suspects fled into the night. Yesterday, Woodland and some of his neighbors called a press conference in his small apartment to voice their outrage.
"These guys have got guns and they are out there every night," Woodland said as about two dozen neighbors and teen-agers nodded encouragement. "I'm concerned about my family, about my son who was busted in the head, about her son (pointing to Gloria Coles) who was shot."
"They stop you car, and stick their heads in the window and poke dope at you," blurted out Gloria Coles. "They rob each other and they rob us. They argue over who got to the customer first and they fight. Even though I've told the youngsters a million times not to go up there, they go anyway because it's something different to see. It's like an all-night parade."
The pushers sell heroin right out in the open, Woodland said, and the police do nothing.
"They arrest the same man each night, and this boy doesn't have a pack of Kools on him," Woodland said. "These other boys' pockets are so full you pat 'em and the heroin falls out."
Police in the 7th District which covers the Hartford Gardens neighborhood, say Woodland's version is not correct. "We patrol that area frequently and arrests are made," said Lt. Samuel Carter. "Most of the sales are marijuana, and you know how permissive the courts are about that. It's like we're trying to bail out the ocean. How do you bail out the ocean?"
"We made 20 arrests in one or two days, for marijuana sales, right there, and the U.S. attorneys no-papered [dropped charges] on all of 'em," said 7th District Capt. William Anastos. "They say the jails are crowded, and the court calenders this and that, and you need three observers and one transaction is not enough and all that . . . We've arrested one guy three times in the last two weeks and he's back on the street before we can finish the the paperwork. We've got them [the sales] on videotape and still pictures, and the courts do nothing."
It's little consolation to Woodland and his supporters in the community as they struggle to come to terms with the problem that plagues their working-class neighborhood of row homes with tiny neat lawns and concrete apartment buildings with littered parking lots.
His neighbors speak with admiration for Woodland, a 39-uear-old junior high school counselor who has developed youth programs in the neighborhood. It is he who has taken on the drug pushers, they say, while others remain afraid.
The Wood-paneled walls of his apartment are filled with certificates of appreciation, graduation pictures of his four children, and snapshots of his proteges in sports gear.
Woodland said he was returning home Friday night from an all-star football game in which his son had played when he saw "a couple of major drug pushers" at 24th and Hartford. He said he rushed up and told them to get out.
"The dude said, 'Look, man, I make my living selling drugs and I'll sell them one way or another," Woodland said.
"I said it won't be like that. There'll be no drugs any more on this strip." As he continued to argue, he said, three or four friends of the pusher "came out of the night and said 'this sucker given' you trouble again," and then one of 'em pulled out a knife and my son hit 'em with a stick. They pulled guns and started shootin'."
Maurice Coles, 19, jumped in front of one of the guns and got shot in the arm, he said. Calvin Woodland Jr. needed four stitches to close his head wound.
"We need a police precinct right here," Gloria Coles said at yesterday's meeting in Woodland's apartment. City council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), who represents the area, her citizen activist husband, Calvin, and two uniformed police representatives listened attentively. The police said they would pass on the complaints to their superiors. Calvin Rolark said he would call for a meeting between the city's chief judge, the U.S. attorney, the chief of police and Woodland.
"We're gonna use any means we can to get rid of 'em [the drug pushers]," Calvin Rolark told the Hartford Street citizens, "and I'm speaking as cochairman of the police chief's citizen advisory committee. We want them [the drug pushers] out of Southeast, period."
Police at the 7th District said that Woodland is "sincere" and an "activist," but they say he tends to exaggerate, and may be prone to seek publicity.
Woodland said he will continue to go out each night and try to chase off drug pushers. "I've gone this far," he said. "What else can I do?"