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Two weeks ago, the D.C. Housing Authority attempted to hold a meeting to allow would-be redevelopers of the Barry Farm public housing complex near Anacostia to present their proposals to residents. No such luck. Just as the first developer began speaking, a group of protesters led by the group Empower DC shouted him down with chants, and the meeting had to be called off.
Now the Housing Authority has rescheduled the meeting for next week. And already the venom is starting to fly.
Yesterday afternoon, Empower DC sent out a press release with the headline “City Seeks to Keep Empower DC Out of Barry Farm Demolition ‘Developer’s Meeting.'” In the release, Empower complains that the new meeting will be “residents only,” which the organization sees as an effort to shut it out of the conversation after some Empower members who were not Barry Farm residents led the protests at the last meeting.
“The city arrogantly claimed those residents were not acting on their own accord, but were directed by Empower DC,” the release states. “Empower DC is a membership based organization that supports the self-advocacy and organized power of communities like Barry Farm. Residents of Barry Farm are members of the organization.”
Housing Authority spokesman Rick White responded with an equally sharp email to members of the media, to which he attached the Housing Authority’s notice of the meeting to residents and wrote, “Any reader will see that Empower DC’s release is thinly-veiled misinformation created to promote chaos and confusion.”
The Empower release also accuses the Housing Authority of giving residents short notice, mistakenly claiming that the meeting was going to be last night. In fact, the meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, as Empower D.C.’s Parisa Norouzi notes in a more conciliatory follow-up email, in which she gave “kudos to DCHA for finally giving proper notice.”
But don’t count on a conciliatory meeting, if the last one was any indication.