City Paper is not for tourists
3:37 Press conference hasn’t started, but there’s a band of protesters already across Irving Street. They’re protesting the gang injunction. Roughly 10 of them, waving signs with a bullhorn. Protesters are changing, “Intervention, not injunction,” and “Prosecute criminals, not innocent people.” Press conference is 10 minutes late.
However, the fight at the convention center that yesterday Councilmember Jim Graham said was related to the shooting appears to be unrelated to this one.
Assistant Police Chief Alfred Durham tells Cherkis both kids were arrested at the convention center—-the ones with the revolver and the brass knuckles. Police spokesperson Traci Hughes says incident at the convention center is unrelated to the shooting yesterday afternoon.
Durham stated at the press conference that all involved were adults and that police had zeroed in on a possible suspect. He said that he expected an arrest warrant for the shooter to be issued by this afternoon.
Cherkis caught up with Attorney General Peter Nickles. He asked Nickles if if the proposed civil gang injunctions would have prevented yesterday’s shooting.
“I’m not going to speculate on what happened yesterday,” said Nickles. “The investigation is still ongoing.”
“Then why are you here?” Cherkis asked Nickles. Nickles refused to answer.
Cherkis asked Graham if he thought civil gang injunctions would have prevented yesterday’s shooting. “You know that specific event? No, I don’t think so,” Graham said. But he did say “There’s no question” that the incident involved gangs.
Cherkis asked Graham why he thought the council rejected the gang injunctions.
“One mentions racial profiling, and the whole thing jumps the track,” said Graham. “I think there was a lot of hyperbole…maybe more than a little bit of politics.”
Would, in Graham’s opinion, there be buy-in from rank-and-file cops on the gang injunctions?
“I don’t know.”
Protesters have just moved across street. Fenty is starting to speak. He is joined by three white councilmembers—Catania, Evans, and Graham. [Although expected to make an appearance, Councilmember Bowser failed to show up]. Protesters are surrounding Fenty holding up signs about abuse of power.
Suddenly, the protesters go silent and just let Fenty squint into the sun and give his talking points (none of it worthy of actually quoting). He says that Columbia Heights and other neighborhoods have seen far too many shootings. He then rattles off a list of how much he’s spent or how much time he’s devoted to non-criminal justice arenas: education, “state of the art” rec facilities, the closing down of Oak Hill, and the opening of New Beginnings. He says that those interventions haven’t worked or at least reached gang members.
Nickles then gets his turn at the podium. The pitbull AG sounds more like a kitten imploring the passage of the gang injunctions “for 90 days.” He insists that the injunctions would not focus on drug corners or loiterers. The injunctions would only go after the hardcore criminals. The law needs to be enacted he says “before the summer.” Isn’t it already summer? Kids are out of school. And that was Nickles sweating in front of that bank of cameras.
I asked Nickles earlier if civil fines would really work against gang members. I noted that perhaps enforcing the fines just would not work considering that studies have shown that gangs members do not make all that much money. (See Freakonomics and Gang Leader For A Day). Nickles insisted that the fines would be aimed at the kingpins.
Graham offered defiance: “We are not going to lose this fight.” And later states: “We have a major gang problem in this city…We need intelligence. We need intervention.” And still later: “But I need this new message, this tough new message.”
Evans sounded a desperate tone: “I need the community’s support.” He encouraged constitutes to lobby the more skeptical members of the city council. He played up his experience (19 years on the council!). And Evans insists he is down with the Peaceoholics. He also played up his own liberal credentials—offering that he is a member of the ACLU.
“If you don’t like my idea what’s your idea?” Evans asked rhetorically. Mendelson‘s ideas were clear. Evans chose not to vote for what was in Mendo’s emergency bill which included plenty of crime fighting tools.
Catania then admitted that this gang injunction tool was not a “silver bullet.” Oops. “Hand wringing is not a solution,” the councilmember stated.
If Fenty and Co. tried their best to capitalize on yesterday’s leg shootings with more fear speeches, Assistant Chief Durham wasn’t interested in playing along.
Violent crime is actually down citywide by 4 percent and that homicides are down 17 percent from last year, Durham said.
After the press conference, Evans tried to convince Gary Imhoff that he would totally accept the gang injunction if you took out the racial angle. Instead of thinking about D.C. gangs, Evans advised, think about West Side Story. If only we thought about sharks and jets!
Imhoff did not look convinced.
Evans then pleaded that the city should be allowed to just try the gang injunctions for the proposed 90 days. Just 90 days.
As a card-caring member of the ACLU, Evans should know that the organization has already consented to a number of police tools in place like stay-away orders and nuisance property laws.
Before the press conference, Catania tried to make a weird personal argument: “I have friends who live here and there”—the councilmember then pointed to two new condo buildings on 14th—”and they can’t sell because of the [crime].”
Photograph from yesterday’s crime scene by Darrow Montgomery