Group Protests Barring Notices of Black Men in Public Housing

12/22/2011, 5:50 p.m.

The practice of stopping black men from entering D.C. public housing projects without just cause is illegal and should be stopped, said a group of activists and attorneys recently.

Johnny Barnes, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's chapter in the District, convened a press conference of 15 people at Judiciary Square in Northwest on Monday, Dec. 19, to talk about African-American men who are being prevented from entering public housing complexes.

"Young African-American men are given these barring notices that say they cannot go on certain public housing properties," Barnes, 64, said. "The D.C. housing police and the D.C. police arrest young black men on these properties unfairly."

Barnes said the young black men are prosecuted and imposed a sentence without the due process of law, raising both due process and First Amendment implications. He pointed out the young people who have been prosecuted with barring notices "have never been involved with the law" before.

The most prominent barring notice case occurred recently when D.C. State Board of Education member Trayon White, who represents Ward 8, was arrested by the D.C. Housing Authority police and MPD officers for trying to conduct his non-profit business affairs in the Woodland Terrace complex in Southeast.

"I was charged with unlawful entry to Woodland Terrace and I have an office and a contract with the D.C. Housing Authority to be there," White, 27, said. "I have served Woodland for seven years. I and others have met with D.C. Housing Chief [William] Pittman and officials of the D.C. police department about this."

White, who was elected in a special election to replace the late William Lockridge on the board of education in April, is the executive director of HICKS Inc.--Helping Inner City Kids Succeed-- a nonprofit designed to help teenagers and young adults move forward in their lives.

Barnes said White's harassment is outrageous.

"Trayon White is a duly elected official in the District and he is being harassed because he wears his hair in dreadlocks," Barnes said. "He has to pay for a lawyer and is branded for life and he did nothing."

Barnes also cited the situation of Charles Malloy, who received a barring notice from Woodland Terrace even though his mother, grandmother and the mother of his two-year-old child live there, but Malloy did not receive good legal advice on how to deal with the matter.

"Charles Malloy pleads guilty and as a result, the plea stays on his record," he said.

Gary Lover, who has relatives who live in the Lincoln Heights complex, also received a barring notice while on the property.

"I am a graduate of Delaware State University and I have worked for Channel 7," Lover said. "Despite that, I have been harassed by the police because I want to see my family."

Support for the embattled young men came from E. Faye Williams, chair of the National Congress of Black Women, and Keith Silver, the head of the D.C. Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.