As brisk days and bitingly cold nights have driven drug dealers and their customers from the streets and into apartment house basements and hallways, residents of an Adams-Morgan block are taking to the streets to tell the traffickers that they are not welcome neighbors.
Three times a day, some tenants of buildings owned by the nonprofit Jubilee Housing Inc. stage protest marches around the several-block triangle bounded by Columbia Road and 16th and Euclid streets NW, where residents say drug trafficking has increased dramatically in the last few months.
Third Police District Officer B.L. Dunning, who with his partner Richard Hardesty has assisted various community groups when drug traffickers have invaded neighborhoods, said the immediate problem is "people who have been selling on the street going into the buildings, making noise and trashing the place."
"We were on Chapin Street doing the same kind of support work with neighborhood groups before we were here," Dunning said last week as he sat in a police van parked inside the Euclid triangle. "We've got to come up with some long-term solution to this drug problem. Right now we're just moving [the traffickers] from neighborhood to neighborhood."
As afternoon faded into dusk and temperatures dropped into the twenties one day last week, a small group of protesters hoisted banners and talked among themselves as they marched, led by Hardesty on a police motor scooter.
"Would you sell drugs to your children?" one placard asked. As the group stopped to cross a street, Hardesty was splattered with an egg thrown from a window of a nearby apartment house. But there were few other overt expressions of disapproval.
Bundled up against the cold, the band of protesters walked swiftly along a maze-like route that criss-crossed the Euclid triangle, an area of recently built, expensive town houses, turn-of-the-century row houses and apartment buildings.
"Right on!" yelled one woman to the protesters as she alighted from a bus that had stopped on Columbia Road. Merchants along the route signaled their approval as the marchers trooped past, pausing to speak briefly with parking lot attendants and community activists.
"The tenants of the buildings are intimidated by these drug people," said Gordon Cosby, pastor of the Church of the Saviour, which in 1972 spawned the Jubilee community action network that has grown to include a health clinic and job placement service.
Jubilee now owns six buildings in the Euclid triangle area and provides housing to 500 to 800 low-income persons, who help in the management of their own buildings.
The 30-apartment Mozart Building at 1630 Fuller St. NW, where about 100 persons live, is the central target of Jubilee's efforts to drive out the pushers.
"Parents who bring their children to the Montessori school, housed in the basement of the Mozart, are concerned that they have to take their children through areas where drug dealing is occurring," said Robert Boulter, vice president of Jubilee Housing, who is on loan to the community group from the Rouse Co., a major development company.
"The [drug] activity is bad early in the morning," when the pre-school students who attend the Jubilee Children's Workshop arrive, "at lunch and throughout the evening," Boulter said.
He said drug dealing and other criminal activities are familiar sights to the 507 children enrolled at the H.D. Cooke Elementary School, on 17th Street NW between Euclid Street and Mozart Place NW.
"Last fall, when a man was killed right here on 17th Street," Boulter said, pointing to an alleyway entrance, "children at the school across the street stood at the windows and watched [the scene] until the body was finally taken away."
As the protesters in last week's march progressed down Columbia Road, a man who said he lived in the same block as the Mozart said he is "ripped off all the time [by the drug people]. One time they even came in through the wall. I'm tired of it."
He followed Boulter into the Mozart to sign an "expression of support" and request for more police action to rid the area of drug trafficking.
As part of its effort to drive drug dealers and their customers from the lobby and hallways of the Mozart, the Jubilee organization has set up offices in the lobby, Boulter said. "You might say that we are displacing the regular business."
Boulter said the marches represent an attempt to mobilize neighborhood support behind the campaign to rid the area of drug dealers. Only by uniting to pressure city officials, some residents believe, will they obtain the police support necessary to drive dealers from the area.
The large police van is parked outside the Mozart throughout the day, and the combined effort has cleared the area, at least part of the time, Cosby said.
"Nothing happens while the police are outside," Cosby told a marcher. "But they know when the police change shifts," he said, "and for the 30 minutes that the police aren't there, it's business as usual."