White was arrested by D.C. Housing Authority police and charged with unlawful entry Sept. 24 for violating a “barring notice” preventing him from entering the Woodland Terrace public housing complex, where he is a longtime community activist.
In keeping with office policy, Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, would not comment on the decision to drop the charge. Dena Michaelson, a spokeswoman for the housing authority, declined to address the specifics of White’s case.
But White maintains that the authority had no grounds to bar him from the complex where he grew up and remains active. He is now speaking out against the abuse of barring notices and has a powerful ally in the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Johnny Barnes, the D.C. ACLU’s executive director, said White was never served notice of his barring, for one thing. A copy of the notice Barnes reviewed said “unable to serve.” And given White’s history in the area with his community organization, Helping Inner City Kids Succeed, Barnes argues that DCHA had no grounds to keep him off the property.
“It’s an outrageous case,” he said.
White, in an interview Monday, said he’s returned to Woodland Terrace this weekend for the first time since his arrest. From September until then, he had to meet with neighborhood kids off DCHA property, around the corner at Allen Chapel AME Church.
“It created a burden for me to be truly effective,” he said
Barnes also said another man was arrested pursuant to a Woodland Terrace barring notice without any prior notification he had been barred. Barnes said Charles Milloy, 24, should have been allowed on the property to visit his mother and grandmother, as well as his 2-year-old son and his son’s mother.
Under D.C. regulations, nonresidents can be barred if they “engage in any activity that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents or DCHA employees.” Police officers or security guards issuing a bar notice must only make a “attempted delivery” to the person affected.
Barring notices, said Michaelson, have been “used for more than 15 years to preserve residents’ quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their property.” White was one of 67 people barred from Woodland Terrace this year, she said.
“Periodically, we get questions from or about people who have been barred,” she said in a statement. “We review these situations on a case-by-case basis.”
Barnes said the barring system appears to be unconstitutional and is in need of a thorough overhaul. “The system needs to be improved,” he said. “It needs fairness and justice.”