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Tense times on 7th Street: Kids, crowds, a brawl

What's going on in the District's hot new retail and entertainment zone? After a decade of boom and a wholesale rejuvenation of the city's East End as urban playground, restaurant row and shopping strip, recent weeks have seen a striking turn in the atmosphere, as Washington teens have transformed the area near Gallery Place mall and the sports arena into an evening hangout, with apparent tension between different groups of kids and a heavy police presence.

[6 p.m. UPDATE: Join us after 8 p.m. this evening and Tuesday evening as Post reporters tweet about what they're seeing as they begin to piece together the story...see TweetDeck below or follow #storylab on Twitter.]

That all exploded into an unprecedented brawl on Metro trains heading away from Gallery Place Friday night. Now, in the next step of The Post's group reporting experiment--which started last week with our coffee house newsroom stories-- we'd be grateful for your help as we try to trace the roots of how 7th Street NW has turned into a teen hangout, and determine the impact of this change.

Seven Post reporters will be examining the clash among teens, the tensions around class and race that have developed along the street, and the factors that led to this change in the social scene this summer. We'd love to hear your observations, thoughts and perspectives on why this change has occurred, your suggestions about how best to capture the scene in stories, and your own experiences while going to events at the Verizon Center, going out to dinner in the Penn Quarter/Chinatown corridor, or going to the movies at Gallery Place. Do you feel energized or threatened by the scene on the street? Have you seen fights or confrontations and how were they handled by police? Is the heavy police presence helping?

Please come ahead with your thoughts and suggestions on the comment board below or by emailing us at storylab@washpost.com, and if you have specific stories to tell about your own experiences, please include a way for a reporter to get in touch with you. Thanks very much, and please watch for our writers' reports here on Story Lab starting tomorrow and in The Post in print and online later on in the week.


By Marc Fisher  | August 9, 2010; 2:43 PM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story, coffee house newsroom  | Tags:  7th Street, Gallery Place, Metro Gallery Place, Metro brawl, Metro fight, Seventh Street, kids on 7th Street  
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Comments

There are a few groups of teens that hang out and are always trying to pick fights with adults in the Gallery Place/Verizon Center area. The police look the other way. Why is this? Is there not a loitering law in DC? A certain group of teen girls block the sidewalk and view the words "excuse me" as a provocation to violence...all within view of the 3-4 DC police that are standing in the area. Then there are the groups with signs and PA systems inciting people to violence, spitting at people as they walk by. Real nice area to work. I actually liked Chinatown better BEFORE the "rejuvenation". I miss the asian grocery stores/shops and all of the friendly people who worked in them.

Posted by: CalmTruth | August 9, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

CalmTruth, no we have no loitering law in DC, one was proposed last year but voted down by the City Council under the leadership of Phil Mendelson. He heads the Cmte on Public Safety/Judiciary and together with the mayor is at fault for the continual criminal activity in much of DC, though not where he or the rest of the council lives of course.

DC is in many ways a gangsters paradise, I am soon leaving after almost 20 years here!

Also note that GP is one of several places where the Hebrew Israelits 'preach' weekly, calling for the killing of whites, Christians, Muslims, and whoever else walks in front of them. Public encouragement of targeted, specific violence is illegal in much of the rest of the country, but again, not in DC.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | August 9, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Is the point of the Post Story Lab to make it easier for the Post to do no legwork? Just lazy reporting at a desk? Your reports since this incident have been lame and with misinformation. Just guessing on your part, it seems. Now you want to do some work, but the sources must come to you. Any journos left at the Post?

Posted by: axolotl | August 9, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

I've worked in that area for about 8 years. The epicenter for the tensions you are talking about (class and otherwise) I think is the 7th and H intersection. The Portrait Gallery steps on 7th turn into a huge teenage scene after dark. This can be simply an irritant (Dunkin Doughnuts kicked some kids out recently for being loud and not buying anything--i.e. being teenagers,) or it can get far worse. About a month ago I saw some rowdy kids steal a girl's Iphone on the corner of 5th and H before running 1 block and then slowing to a walk because they figured they would get off scott free. (They didn't, I called the cops.)

I think the masses of teens are only part of the story, though. Yes, the Hebrew Israelites are there pretty much every Friday evening "preaching" angrily and scaring tourists. You've also got a very busy bus stop right there which attracts crowds of people who probably aren't at the same income level as the folks going to Legal Sea Foods. Also several homeless shelters in the area lead to quite a lot of panhandling, particularly if you walk east down H toward the liquor store on 6th. Now there is nothing particularly "wrong" with any of this, but when you mix all of this with more affluent people trying to have a glass of wine at Proof, say, you are bound to get some tensions.

Posted by: beamtendave | August 9, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

it was fenty supporter not wanting to hear anyone bad mouth that a*s hole, so his common thugs started throwing blows

Posted by: JeroRobson1 | August 9, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Did the brawl start on or near the roped off area when Shady Grove train was sharing the Glenmont tracks? On Sat. around 1pm, both trains shared same track, but no sign as to where and how to go/travel if unable to get to Shady Grove track. No bullhorn by Metro man trying to tell 200 riders when and how to ride on same track to Glenmont/ Shady Grove. Information helps riders...Does Metro need some school teachers with markers to make signs and to rent a bull horn? or are both against Metro rules?

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | August 9, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Also, kids like to sit...so The Smithsonian Museum of American Art/Portrait Gallery... needs to place a new fence on the east side of their building at street level. No need for taxpayers to pay for free bleachers for kids! If they want to sit, they can go to the movies or to a restaurant!


Also

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | August 9, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Since you are professional journalists, how about doing some real spade-work here by using unobtrusive cameras (they are now quite small and inexpensive) to record the action in this area and -- now this is the important part -- recording in particular the police response to said action? I ask this because this goes to the heart of the matter: the perception that there are no adults on the job keeping D.C.'s youth out of trouble by imposing law and order on them, and that the police just don't want to be bothered with any of this.

Posted by: JohnQCitizen | August 9, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

This is why places like Arlington & Bethesda are flourishing because people can go there to spend a evening out and not worry about getting beat up or harassed by gaggles literally wild dc youths

Posted by: skinsfan15 | August 9, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

beamtendave......u hit all the reasons pretty much why chinatown sucks

Posted by: skinsfan15 | August 9, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

TeTe an Shaniqua be sayin I be a grill wearin fool. I be sayin, I ain't down wit de homies wit no grills an bling bling an so I be bustin a cap in dey booty. you no wha i be sayin bioch...

Posted by: -PBL- | August 9, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

The reality is that if you are teen in this city with limited funds, there is not much to do. Teens with not much to do never make good decisions. These type of brawls are going to continue until you give these kids something to do that is legal and not picking on each other.

Posted by: Brooklander | August 9, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

If these kids want to fight, please have them enroll into military and send them to Afghan. Then they will face a real fight.

Posted by: drkly | August 9, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Brooklander, DC has more free things to do than you can believe! You want nothing to do....try growing up in rural America. There is NO EXCUSE for a teenager to say they have nothing to do in DC. If you still can't find something to do, may I suggest a visit to the library?

Posted by: jeffgopack | August 9, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse


It was black, I mean African-American, kids who have absolutely no parental upbringing or discipline.


Posted by: mortified469 | August 10, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

The MO for these predators is well known by now, since it is similar to the dynamics that are common in late-night Adams-Morgan. When they are not beefing with each other on the basis of stupid neighborhood distinctions or perceived 'disses,' groups of black (mostly male) teens, often younger than you would ever imagine, stake out the bigger bars and clubs from the street. When they spot a drunken white couple leaving, one kid will grab the woman's rump on the sidewalk, inviting the indignant response from the male. The group quickly circles the male and knocks him down only to stomp him in a flurry of fists and feet.

The groups, while usually not gangs per se, will dress similarly---often black or white tees and droopy black jeans---in order to make IDs more difficult. Sometimes they'll layer different colored tees and change up right after an attack to elude ID and capture. (Really, watch for the contrasting layers.) They prey on the drunks because they are not smart enough to run, less able to fight back, less able to ID attackers, less likely to bother showing up in court, and less likely to be believed in court. Even if the kids have the distinctly rare misfortune of getting arrested, DC juvenile officials kick 'em back out before the officers can even finish their paperwork and get back on the street themselves.

The juvenile arrest-to-conviction rate is a joke (though they use different terms). Violence is a sport of impunity to these kids. And the liberal City leadership won't do a damn thing about it because the racial politics are too tortuous. Juvenile crime is to DC as illegal immigration is to the Congress: not gonna get dealt with, except for the bromides and euphemisms (if that).

Posted by: RealityCheckerInEffect | August 10, 2010 2:20 AM | Report abuse

There are a couple of solutions that need to be addressed here:

1) Close the shelters on 5th and 6th sts and move them to an area of the city less populated. They take up valuable real estate and scare tourists and residents alike. The panhandling, public drunkenness and anti-social behavior are quality-of-life/nuisance crimes that Giuliani focused on in the early years of cleaning up New York. That needs to happen now in DC.

2) Close the projects on 7th St which are just blocks north of Chinatown. That removes the proximity to valuable real estate. Ship them off to PG County with no access to metrorail. If they want to live off the government and not look for a job, let them be bored to tears in suburbia. Maybe that will inspire them to get motivated, cut off their dreads, pull up their pants and speak properly.

3) Increase police presence. Chief Lanier probably doesn't want to say there is inadequate police presence for pr reasons, but I'm sure we will see a large police presence there regardless over the next few weeks.

Posted by: tsqnova | August 10, 2010 6:35 AM | Report abuse

"The reality is that if you are teen in this city with limited funds, there is not much to do. These type of brawls are going to continue until you give these kids something to do that is legal and not picking on each other."---Brooklander
------------------------------------------

Hmmm, i was a teen with limited funds growin up in a big city. My city gave us NOTHING to do, as a city is not responsible to GIVE entyertainment.

You know what I did? I got a JOB, so I could have MONEY, so I could PAY to be entertained. I did not go muggin people for kicks.

I have seen 3 muggings on Metro in the last 2 months - all of them by teenagers. DC really needs to get their teenage thugs under control, before someone on a METRO goes all Bernie Goetz on them.

These types of brawls are going to continue until the cops arrest and prosecute the criminials, or until someone starts shooting them. I hope the cops step up, before civilians step in.

Posted by: Greent | August 10, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Concealed carry?

Posted by: michael49 | August 10, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Leadership (or lack thereof) in this city baffles me. What is the upside on having roving bands of teenagers robbing and beating people on the metro, and in an area of town where people spend money and contribute to the economy and well being of this city?

Posted by: 123cartoon | August 10, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

So where has the WP been? This problem did not just start this year, this has been an ongoing problem for years. They really do need to shut down the slums just northeast of this area to have any impact at all, make the curfew for teens be 9pm, and fence off the steps to the potrait museum.

Lastly, the vendors in the area need to install the "Skeeter," a device that emits a high pitched sound detectable only by those 18 and under. That will deter them. This crap about "giving them something to do" is just that. It wont make a bit of difference, all they understand is violence.

Posted by: doug524 | August 10, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Oooh oooh, can you do upper Georgia Ave (Ward 4) where I live next??!! We lack any of the GP improvements but we have all the thuggery and tension you want!

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | August 10, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Hey Brooklander: Stop with the excuses. I grew up in the DC area, long before cell phones, iPods, xboxes, PS2's and 3's. We went outside and made our own fun...and we didn't bother any adults and we weren't rude and violent. We played in the dirt, ran through parks, played hide-and-seek, tag, whiffle ball, kick ball, etc.

The difference: our parents actually RAISED us. These kids are like animals in the wild because they've had no parental guidance.

Sorry, but it's not my financial responsibility to fund programs with my tax dollars to "entertain" kids because they haven't had any parental guidance.

I'm tired of paying to fund welfare babies and then being the victim of crime by them. It's time to start a sterilization program for people on welfare. After 1 baby, tie her tubes or snip his to stop the breeding and the bleeding of the pockets of hard working, law abiding citizens who should have the right to enjoy a night on the town without unruly thugs robbing them or worse.

I agree with another person who posted here: no wonder people go to Bethesda, Alexandria and Arlington. You can enjoy a nice dinner and a walk down the street and not be mugged, beaten or killed. And it's a far classier group of people. After a long time in the District, I'm about ready to move back to the burbs.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | August 10, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

DC statehood? Not until demographics make a massive shift, but we've trending in the right direction since 2000.

Not that she's back from Spain, maybe our First Lady can interest our inner city youth in growing arugula in small, well maintained urban gardens, preferably in ward 8.

Posted by: wagtdn | August 10, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Brooklander:

I never got involved in any kind of mob action, because my parents encouraged me to use my head & not my fists. I grew up in Chicago, & I had plenty to do. We had libraries & parks nearby & museums downtown, just like DC's kids.

Posted by: clevin | August 12, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

These teens don't have parents as we know our own parents. They were never raised to be polite, to seek education or to better themselves. They know violence and troublemaking to the nth degree. Some may have parents that have tried hard to straighten out their kids but failed and gave up. We all know this happens in all walks of life. More police presence is needed around Gallery Place and the city knows it. When I go there I keep my head up and look at what's going on around me.

Posted by: shejoy | August 12, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

These kids are animals. Let them kill each other as long as they don't hurt anyone else.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | August 14, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Is there an expectation that once summer is over and school is open that these incidents will decline? Of course there is. So there is at least a partial solution: School YEAR ROUND. This, along with precise policing and zero tolerance for gangs of youth entering metro stations can go a long way to solving this. Take the defenders of these rude young people seriously--they claim there is nothing for them to do. Okay, school and school and more school. Put some incentives into that equation so that young people with perfect attendance graduate early and have first chance for internships and jobs.

Posted by: medogsbstfrnd | August 14, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

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