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Who's Making Noise?

Labor unions have banded together to stop the final approval of the controversial Noise Control Protection Amendment Act with a three-day radio campaign that begins tomorrow morning on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, said Dwight Kirk, a spokesman for the groups.

The D.C. Council voted 8 to 5 earlier this month to give preliminary approval to the legislation that would restrict noncommercial public speech during the day to no greater than 80 decibels or 10 decibels above the ambient noise level when measured from 50 feet.

The five dissenters questioned whether the legislation infringed on the right to protest and wondered how noise complaints from the H Street neighborhood had escalated into blanket legislation for the entire city.

The council is scheduled to take a final vote Tuesday.

The labor unions, under the umbrella of the Speak and Be Heard Coalition, want to throw out an amendment that would quiet protesters though they would be permitted to get loud in front of hotels and in the downtown area.

In the 60-second spot that begins with the voice of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a male narrator takes aim at Council members Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) for pushing the amendment that addresses the demonstrators.

"They ought to know better," the narrator says. "Hands off free speech or we will let our votes speak for us."

Here is the spot:

Kirk said the unions will descend on the John A. Wilson Building on Monday to lobby council members before Tuesday's vote.

They will be armed with data provided by the Partnership for Civil Justice, a civil rights organization, that went to court to get noise complaints. From 2002 to 2007, there were 1,042 noise complaints. Three of them were for protests, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the group's co-founder and attorney.

A majority of the complaints were air conditioners, trash trucks, nightclubs and construction.

"Free speech is not noise," Verheyden-Hilliard said.

The legislation "is not only the wrong cure for the disease, but the case has been misdiagnosed," she said. "We think it's important that people know about this and that the council know about this."

By Nikita R Stewart  |  May 29, 2008; 6:24 PM ET
Categories:  City Life  
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