The DC of this era was tainted by drugs, crime, and scandal.
Mayor Marion Barry began his political career working with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) against racial segregation by organizing sit-ins in the South. He then became involved in the D.C. Board of Education and the City Council. Eventually becoming mayor in 1979. His first administration was characterized by increased efficiency in the city administration. He was a major advocate for summer employment opportunities for city youth. This signaled the opening of the Neighboorhood Planning Council, the place where a few punks gathered and began working on what would become revolution summer in the punk movement. A summer marked by concerts and protests for change.
After this successful start, Barry won another term in a landslide victory. After his first term's success both economically and politically this term had a rocky start. The city administration suffered from a major spending deficit caused by Barry's adamant spending on unemployment. This term was also marked with scandal as some of his colleagues were indicted for financial malfeasance. Despite this, Barry ran and won a third term. By this time his drug addiction, the crack epidemic and the murder rates in the city were out of control. By 1990, Barry was arrested on cocaine chargers. Eventually finding his way back into city politics many years later.
D.C. was one of the U.S. cities that faced the so called "crack epidemic" of the 1980s. Drug use surged in the city during this time.
During this time, the crack epidemic caused the violent crime rate to soar, making D.C. the crime capital of the U.S.
On April 15, 1989 DEA, FBI, and DC Police conducted a major raid against Rayful Edmond III's drug network. Catching him and his companions and arresting all members of this major drug network. Perhaps the biggest in the District, centered at Orleans Place, NE but continually spreading throughout the city. The team had spent nearly two years planning a case against the District's major drug network.
Interestingly enough Edmond was a huge basketball fan and had been associated with members of the Georgetown Basketball Team, John Thompson had requested a private meeting with him. He met with him to ensure he knew the "goals and objectives of my kids and make it clear to him I didn't want anything going on with my kids."
During the 1980s Michael Horsley, armed with his camera, wandered the streets of D.C. and documented the hidden and vulnerable moments in the inner city of the district. Many of the scenes he photographed featured areas of D.C. that had not recovered from the riots of 1968.
Pictured below are just a few of these photographs. For more, look at this diverse collection of photographs released by Michael Horsley on Flickr.
President Reagan was elected in a landslide victory in 1980. His administration is remembered for their aggressive stance against Russia in the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Iran Hostage crisis and a major conservative era of tax cuts and increased military spending.
Punk Bands in D.C. tended to dislike Reagan. Particularly, Reagan Youth, Government Issue and the Ramones.
Sparked by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., rioters took to the streets of D.C. These violent riots left 13 dead and thousands injured. The rioters destroyed a large part of the city, particularly the H and 14th Street area, leaving over 900 storefronts destroyed. Another group of Kings supporters continued with their plan to construct "Resurrection City" building hut encampments along the national mall and living there in support of "the misery of the disenfranchised." Eventually this too was also shut down sparking more riots that were swiftly stopped. By the end of the summer more than 2,500 jobs were lost and black business districts destroyed from the April riot. These areas of D.C. remained unrestored hubs of crime for the next few decades.
This unfortunate turn in the District provided the perfect place for young rebels to take refuge. Many punk shows took place in some part of these neighborhoods.
The 1970s saw bursts of anti-Vietnam protests spreading throughout the nation. The presidential address April 20, 1970, about withdrawing troops signaled to the nation that President Nixon was serious about downsizing the war. However, just a few days later there was a major escalation in the fighting in Cambodia. This sparked young anti-war protestors to take to the streets. Protests sprang up all around the country, one became bloody when four students were killed at Kent State by National Guard Troops. After this rallies popped up all over and one major rally was planned to take place on the national mall on May 9th, 1970. This sparked Nixon to make a strange decision and attempt to talk to the protestors the morning of the rally at the Lincoln Memorial. His strange small talk is still one of the weirdest moments in his rocky presidency.