City politics have always been brutish, but the fireworks in fast- changing Mount Pleasant are pushing the boundaries.
After the death of Gregory C. Shipe, 34, who was shot Sept. 17 while walking his dog, the community was united in its shock and grief.
But the unity didn't last long. Some reactions to the homicide increased friction between old-timers and newcomers and poor and rich.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and longtime resident Gregg Edwards angered some in the neighborhood when he appeared to accuse newcomers of being culturally intolerant of those who have been in the ethnically diverse neighborhood for years.
He told The Washington Post last month that some in Mount Pleasant want a "cultural Disneyland" where "the well-ordered natives come out in their brightly colored costumes, and there's management to enforce respect to their betters."
Now, Edwards said, his opponents are trying to intimidate him into silence by putting anonymous charges on a neighborhood Web site. The chat room posting, by "Alice Addertongue," is a detailed dossier accusing Edwards of numerous misdeeds, including running an illegal business out of his home and questioning his property assessment. ("Alice Addertongue" was a pseudonym used by Benjamin Franklin.)
"It has been nasty for a long time," Edwards said. "It has now become a snake pit."
Edwards likened the Web posting to efforts by totalitarian governments to silence critics. He said he has previously had "squadrons of inspectors or auditors" studying his business as a result of complaints filed by political opponents. He said the charges posted on the Web site have been raised before and dismissed by city officials.
He said he supports legislation, introduced by council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) that would provide ANC members with some protection from threats and harassment.
"In any neighborhood, you're going to have dirty politics. This crosses the line," said Richard Wysocki Jr., a fellow ANC member. "These tactics are intended to intimidate and cause fear."
Laurie Collins, the administrator of the Web site, said she did not consider the posting defamatory since the writer uses simple Web searches and public records to make a case.
"Public figures are public figures. If you're going to stick your head above the crowd, your head is going to be swatted at," she said and added that she has some scars from political battles as well.
Collins said she doesn't know the identity of Alice Addertongue. In one of her (or one of his?) messages, "Alice" described herself as a newcomer to the neighborhood and defended her research.
"I have not disparaged Gregg," Alice wrote. "I have simply asked some questions."
Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) has tried to play peacemaker in the neighborhood. But it's tough.
"People are angry and expressing their anger, and that, in turn, is making others angry," he said.
In another posting on the Web site, a writer identified as "ilm" seemed to acknowledge just how nasty Mount Pleasant politics has become.
"Well Alice," the poster wrote, "welcome to the neighborhood. You fit right in!"