so I was walking home today after running some errands, and heard a lot of singing and noise near Logan Circle, so I walked over. When I got there, I saw a couple hundred church goers (being about 1:45-3:30 on Sunday, I guess they just got out) who were listening to speeches about how enforcing parking restrictions were bad. I got pretty mad. Basically, there has been controversy recently around Logan Circle, as church goers (largely black, and many from outside DC) drive in to park for services. They usually ignore any parking restrictions in the area, double park, block people in, and so on. Before, nobody made a stink about it, but lately residents (mostly the white ones) have been complaining about having their cars blocked in for hours and the church being less than helpful about it. DCist has a lot of coverage.
I listened to a few of the speeches by ministers and was getting pretty angry, as a few of them were pretty accusatory and illogical. One lady I heard was quoting the Bill of Rights "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" and how the "newcomers" (i.e. white people) were going to make it so no church would be able to operate in DC. Call me crazy, but I always thought the Bible says things like "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you." I'm sure these people from outside DC would not want to have their cars blocked in all the time. Another preacher was saying how the new residents didn't respect the old instutions like churches, and that they were being disrespected - I guess because they had to follow parking laws. The banner at the rally even said "Rally for Religious Freedom" which to me was ridiculous.
They're basically saying that because they're a church that's been around for a long time, laws shouldn't affect them. I guess that means that based on how long you live in a place, fewer and fewer laws should apply. I've lived in DC for 8 years, and Logan Circle for about 1, I guess that means I'm allowed to jaywalk and shoplift? If I live here 2 or 3 years, maybe I'm allowed to commit more crimes? And once I move outside DC, I am allowed to park wherever I want, apparently. The silly thing is, the city has been trying to work with the churches and the neighbors, opening new parking spaces, changing traffic patterns so there are more parking spaces along streets, and so on, but apparently it's not enough. It's ridiculous, this is a city, you aren't just allowed to park where ever you want, no matter where you're going. Sometimes you have to drive around for awhile to find a space, just like everyone else does. But because the churchgoers don't feel like it, it's the newcomers' faults. It makes me angry. I live here too. Most of the people complaining don't. If it's that big of a deal, build a parking garage. But I guess the churches are too busy trying to shut down nice, new vegetarian restaurants (presumably because they might raise property values) and attacking bars because they might attract gay people.
So I left, pretty steamed, and wrote the above part. Then I went back later to take some pictures. There were a few politicians there also, namely councilmembers Linda Cropp and Phil Mendelson, and mayoral candidate Michael Brown. Cropp didn't say much of interest, mainly that we need to figure this out, so that was boring. I didn't see Mendelson or Brown speak, but I might have missed it. I was actually kind of mad Brown was there at first, as I thought that meant he was in favor of allowing churchgoers to park wherever. I went over to talk to him after the rally, and he seemed to be pretty sensible on the issue, which I appreciated. Of course he's running for office, so he can't just say he favors one argument over another, (and he actually waited to answer my question once the pastor he was walking with was out of earshot) but he made the good point that an adversarial relationship won't work - the churches saying the "new residents" aren't respecting them, which makes us mad, and the "new residents" saying the churches are breaking the law, which makes them mad, since they feel like their opinion should count more. I told him it basically makes me feel like my opinion doesn't count, since I haven't been here forever. He also said that since this is a city, people are going to need to sacrifice a bit, it's going to tough to find parking, and the churches need to look into other solutions - Metro, valet, something. So that's something I appreciate. I have posted more photos on my Flickr account.