WASHINGTON - It’s being called the fight to preserve D.C. culture. On Monday, musicians and other street artists gathered at Gallery Place to protest an effort to quiet them.
At the center of the controversy is the Amplified Noise Amendment Act, which the D.C. Council will vote on Tuesday.
The current noise ordinance shuts off amplified music at 10 p.m. The new proposed ordinance would instead not allow any amplified music that can be heard past 100 feet away at any time of day.
Businesses said they are having trouble getting work done.
“I think the city loses its civility,” said D.C. resident Jeff Kemprecos. “When I’m walking by and I can’t have a conversation with my wife because I can’t hear her or I can’t hear my kids, I think that’s a problem.”
Street musicians see it as a direct shot at their way of life.
“There are many artists that hone their craft on the streets," explained Katea Stitt, the interim program director with WPFW Radio. “They don’t attend a Juilliard or a Peabody. The streets are where we can see art. The streets are where they can hone their craft and if we take that away, everyone in the society loses.”
“There is a culture here and it’s necessary to preserve that culture,” added Dior Ashley Brown, an artist event host and co-producer. “It’s been out here for decades and I understand that we have new people who are moving in and are making the city evolve and grow. But we cannot forget the historical arts that exist and the creativity that continues to bloom.”
“I love Washington. I love the vibrant culture here,” countered Kemprecos. “But I think vibrant culture lives better when it recognizes its boundaries and we all share the common space.”
Under the new ordinance, if someone is asked to quiet down and they don’t, they could be fined up to $300 or spend up to 10 days in jail.
“So you’re going to criminalize this,” said Aaron Myers with Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation. “You’re going to say a person who was out here just trying to make a living ... [They could be] approached by a police officer and then that could escalate to something horrible.”
Council members are set to take a vote Tuesday at 10 a.m. If passed, it would be a temporary measure effective for 90 days while the council decides on a permanent fix for noise complaints in the neighborhood.
One suggestion from protesters included soundproofing the surrounding buildings better. They aim to spread their message using the hashtag #SoundproofDC.