Hyattsville Parody Not So Funny to Some

Ovetta Wiggins, Washington Post, March 9, 2006

Hyattsville City Council member Chris Currie didn’t like what critics had to say about a proposal to allow inspections of homes of people believed to be renting out bedrooms or basements.

So he wrote a parody of a Washington Post article—or in his words, the “Washington ComPost”—in which politicians “decriminalize citizen robbery in certain inner-Beltway communities” as a response to complaints from residents “that street crime enforcement unfairly burdened certain protected classes of suburban youth gangs.”

Some critics say the article, posted by Currie recently on an Internet message list for Hyattsville residents, had overtones of racism and classism and have demanded an apology. In an interview this week, Currie called the article a “lame attempt at humor, a little parody” and said he didn’t “see why this is an issue or why The Washington Post is interested in a parody on a local listserv.”

The posting has stirred controversy at a time when the council is debating the rental housing proposal, which some residents fear could be used to discriminate against immigrants. Currie is a supporter of the measure and argues that it is designed to protect immigrants who are living in substandard housing.

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In his posting, Currie, who is white, parodied crusading do-gooders who hurt the very people they claim to protect.

“In recent weeks opposition to enforcing anti-mugging laws has mounted in an overwhelmingly white, middle-class neighborhood in Hyattsville Hills often referred to as the ‘Circle of Niceness.’ . . . In a recent public meeting on the street crime issue, one resident of a block that has never had a recorded mugging said: ‘Hyattsville has a unique character in that our neighborhoods have a lot of cars up on blocks, home-based auto shops, people living in storage sheds, and good, old-fashioned street crime. If people don’t like it, then they should leave!?’ “

Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s) was not amused, calling Currie’s comments “a slap in the face to the diversity in this county and the changes in our neighborhoods. . . It’s disrespectful coming from a City Council member. It’s just pretty low.”

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