The intersection of Eighth and H streets NE has been a hub of activity and a gathering point along the economically depressed H Street corridor for years.
Five bus stops serve as depots where hundreds of people gather each day to catch rides to other parts of the city. A dismal, trash-littered park is used by neighborhood residents, young and old, as a place to play cards, shoot the breeze, smoke, drink and talk.
It is from this inner-city street corner, devastated by riots 16 years ago, that the "Eighth and H Street Crew" gets its name.
Members of the "crew" have been charged in the slaying of Catherine Fuller, found beaten to death Oct. 1.
Most of the teen-agers and young men who gather on the corner grew up together, and they often complain that they don't have anywhere else to go or anything else to do.
Two men, one 19 and the other 20, stood at one corner one afternoon this week as pedestrians and buses rushed by.
They said that they were friends of several of the 10 youths arrested in connection with the Fuller homicide and that they were afraid that the police were going to arrest them, too.
Both said that they have lived in the area for years, and both asked not to be identified.
"I don't know where the police get this idea of gangs," said the 19-year-old, who said he is a student at the D.C. Street Academy, an alternative high school for dropouts and other students who could not adjust to a regular high school setting. "I hang out with some of those guys sometimes. The police might arrest me next. I think that the police are pressuring one or two of those guys who really killed the lady to just drop every name they can think of."
He said that D.C. police officers suspect members of the group may have been involved in several unsolved robberies and burglaries at stores along the H Street corridor.
"The police are mad because they can't find the people who have been robbing the stores, he said. "They figure that now, they can nab a lot of them all at once."
"What the police are calling gangs is really just groups of guys who know each other and hang out together, mainly at the go-gos," said the 20-year-old, a furniture mover, who wore two thin jackets to keep warm.
The "go-gos" are concerts by local bands, especially at the Washington Coliseum.
"A lot of times, they don't even go to the go-gos together," the 20-year-old said. "But they meet each other there and hang out. If someone starts a fight, they all get in a group and fight."
"There ain't no community organization building -- nothing out here to keep everybody busy and help us make no money," he continued. "So what are we supposed to do? Some youths are weak and dumb and don't know how to get what they want. So, they just try to get what the next guy has. . . . "
"I understand that certain groups of guys hang out together, robbing and stuff," said James Harris, 19, a Phelps Vocational High School graduate. "Seems like it's been developing for about two years. People from different areas get together at the go-go and rumble. Most people just go to have fun, but it seems that some come to start trouble. They just try to be tough."
Patrick Harris, 23, who grew up two blocks from the Eighth and H streets hub and is back in Washington on leave from the Air Force base in Montana where he is stationed, said that when he was a teen-ager, the area "was pretty much the same as it is now."
"Certain people were tight," Harris recalled. "We didn't use the word 'gang,' but when you messed with one, you messed with all of them."
The groups, called "crews," were territorial, protective and aggressive, Harris said, and things are much the same today.
"If a youth goes into the wrong neighborhood, he's going to get jumped," Harris said.
Often, groups of male friends meet at each other's homes to practice street-fighting techniques before they visit another neighborhood or go to a concert, several of the people interviewed said.
A sister of one of the 10 youths arrested said that her brother, 19-year-old Christopher Turner, of 1018 11th Street NE, is not a member of a gang.
"There are no gangs," Charlene Turner insisted. "That's just a name he and his friends were given at a go-go. They just hang out together."
"My brother is not a bad person," said Turner, 23, who lives next door to the house where her brother lives. "He just got mixed up in the wrong crowd."
But a 24-year-old neighbor of the Turners provided a different view of the group.
"The 'Eighth and H Street Crew' bothers people, they steal . . . you name it, they do it, They're terrible. A lot of the boys in that crew I went to school with," said the woman, who attended Stuart Junior High and Dunbar Senior High schools.
At the go-gos, fights usually get started through the simplest violations of the social graces, youths in the area said.
For instance, said one senior at Notre Dame Academy, who catches a bus at the busy corner: "One guy might step on another guy's foot. Then, a big deal is made of it. Or somebody might bump into somebody else. Or one youth might look at some guy and the guy will say, 'What are you looking at, sucker?' And then a rumble starts like that. It's all ridiculous, if you ask me."
"If there is an 'Eighth and H Street' gang, this is it," said a 36-year-old man who was playing cards with five other people in the park one recent afternoon. "We play cards and we rap and sometimes we drink and smoke. Some of the younger guys get rowdy sometimes," said the man, who called himself "Silkie."
He pointed to a pile of trash bags that had been placed nearby. "We did that," he said. "We hang out in this park all the time. We play cards, we play chess and we try to keep the park clean. There used to be stores here before the riots. Now, it's just us."