A dance attended by 1,000 persons, most of them homosexuals, in a Northeast Washington warehouse Saturday night has sparked a dispute between the D.C. Police and D.C. Fire Departments over whether it should have been canceled.
At a meeting with fire, police and city officials last Friday, dance organizers were told that the dance would have to be called off because fire department officials had refused to issue a permit for it, citing a "long list" of fire code violations at the warehouse, including improper exits and flammable decorations.
But the dance went on as scheduled. Assistant Fire Chief John Devine said fire officials "did everything we could" to close down the dance, held at 2170 24th Pl. NE.
Police officers at the scene decided not to halt the dance, Assistant Police Chief Maurice Turner said, because they saw no "imminent" danger of fire. He added that in the future the department will comply with the wishes of fire officials.
Devine said fire officials arrived shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday and said the dance would have to be canceled. They went to Fifth District Police Capt. Clarence Dickerson, who refused to close the dance.
"We don't have the powers of arrest," Devine said. "That was all we could do."
Dickerson said it was his decision not to close the dance, despite a personal request by Fire Chief Norman Richardson. He would not say why he made that decision.
Marie Dias, a special assistant to Mayor Marion Barry whose duties include liaison with the gay community, attended the meeting with the dance organizers but said the mayor refused to intercede on their behalf.
"I told them it was canceled and they would probably be arrested if they went ahead," she said.Barry received important support from gays during his 1978 mayoral campaign.
Neither Jeffrey Blake nor Brian Wallach, who put on the dance at $25 a head, could be reached for comment yesterday.
Police and fire officials conferred in the office of the D.C. corporation counsel yesterday and announced that "criminal charges are being contemplated" against Wallace and Blake for going ahead with the dance without a permit.