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How does one unsnarl and untangle Paul Belden’s article “Bottled Fury” (3/14)? It is not everyday an article is so incompetently done that a reader who does not otherwise know the story comes away from reading it knowing less than when he or she started. It is all too much for one person, but here is my effort:

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Belden came slinking in from his white enclave in Virginia to write this article. He referred to an African-American lawyer who has actively fought to make her neighborhood a better place and took the time to give him a lengthy interview as “dutifully following” the lead of a white person. He interviewed other persons who themselves are part of the problem and informed his readers of the situation in the neighborhood by quoting their obscene and derogatory remarks. Belden refused to interview other neighbors who are African-American and refused to attend a neighborhood meeting where the issues that were the subject of his article were to be discussed. No, rather than do these things, Belden skulked back to his old Virginia home because it was getting dark and he was afraid. Belden has done this neighborhood, your paper, and its readers a disservice.

Anyone who has been near Trants knows of the drinking, the loitering, the profanity, the drug dealing, and the failure of Trants’ owners to abide by their agreements not to sell half-pints and fortified wines. Trants’ owners admit as much in the article, preferring to sell these items and the neighborhood be damned.

Belden owes Stew and Karen Harris an apology, and this paper owes them a retraction. There is no telescope in their home—I have been there a number of times—and there is no use of camera equipment to snoop on neighbors. There is a video of the offensive and destructive behavior on the public streets in front of Trants that was used as evidence before the ABC Board. But it was too much trouble for Belden to go view that video. Belden does not let facts get in his way.

Belden did get one thing right in his article, however. There is a story in this neighborhood. Unfortunately, Belden is clueless as to what it is.

Capitol Hill

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