Almost 100 taxi drivers crowded into the office of the Arlington County Board Friday morning, demanding a meeting with Board Chairman Walter Tejada to protest working conditions in Arlington.
The crowd of drivers were many of the same who protested in Clarendon last month against the same issue: the ordinance that regulates taxi operating permits, which the protesting drivers feel is written in the interest of the taxi companies’ owners, not the drivers.
The Arlington United Taxi Operators and Tenants and Workers United again organized the protest. Tejada was not in the office Friday morning, but the drivers were able to get a brief audience with Board member Mary Hynes and speak to Tejada on speakerphone, setting up a meeting for Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 3:00 p.m.
The demonstration was organized quickly after Yellow Cab Co. driver Abdellah Ouazzani said he was fired on Wednesday for speaking out against the cab companies. Ouazzani claims that a Yellow Cab manager struck him on the shoulder several times while demanding that he either sell back his taxi to the company or be fired.
“It went from peaceful protests and turned violent,” Ouazzani said. He filed a complaint with the police, who are investigating the incident, but Ouazzani did not have any bruises as a result of the alleged confrontation, we’re told. An official with Red Top Cab, which owns Yellow Cab Co., could not be reached for comment.
Acting Deputy County Manager Jay Farr asked the drivers to leave the office and move the protest to the County Board room, and then called the police. The drivers refused to relocate, but police remained next door in the County Manager’s office, and did not engage with the protesters.
“We’re not trying to have a confrontation,” Farr said. “We want to give them a chance to protest, but we have to conduct government business.”
Protesters lined N. Courthouse Road this morning (Wednesday) to speak out against the new state regulations on abortion clinics this year.
Falls Church Healthcare Center filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Board of Health and the Virginia Department of Health in Arlington Circuit Court, and doctors and administrators from the practice spoke before a crowd of several dozen before the case was set to be heard in court for the first time.
“Because of these regulations, two women’s health centers have already been forced to close,” said Margaretha Netherton, a registered nurse with FCHC. “Patients want healthcare performed by doctors and nurses, not lawyers.”
In April, the Virginia Board of Health voted to implement regulations that require centers that perform five or more abortions a month to have building requirements, including construction outlines like width of hallways of hospitals and nursing homes. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a motion to dismiss the FCHC’s lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court. Just after 11:00 a.m., the court dismissed the state’s motion against FCHC’s suit.
Those in attendance chanted “Virginia women deserve more” and held signs with slogans like “Stop the War on Virginia’s Women,” “Keep Abortion Legal,” and “I Oppose Illegal Abortion.” The speakers said if the abortion clinics are forced to close, women will be forced to resort to illegal or self-abortions.
“[Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers] laws do not protect the women of Virginia,” Sara Imershein, an OB/GYN with FCHC, told the crowd. “They put them in danger.”
Dozens of taxi drivers converged on Clarendon this afternoon, deliberately disrupting traffic to protest what they claim are poor working conditions in Arlington.
The cab drivers drove slowly around the Clarendon Metro station in protest of their employers and Arlington County. Organized by the cab drivers union Arlington United Taxi Operators, they’re lobbying for a public hearing before the County Board.
The drivers and the union want to change the ordinance that regulates taxi operating permits, which the protesting drivers feel is written in the interest of the taxi companies’ owners, not the drivers.
“The companies basically treat us like slaves,” said Abdellah Ouazzani, a cab driver who declined to state which company he drives for out of fear of losing his job. “They abuse us and they can fire us any time they want.”
In recent years, Red Top Cab and Yellow Cab Company, owned by the same parent company, have raised the dues drivers pay from $145 to $175 to $205 a week, Red Top Cab Vice President Charlie King confirmed. The most recent increase, King said, was coupled with a reduction in credit card fees drivers pay when customers charge their rides, estimated at $30 a week.
Drivers say the steeper fees cut into the pay they end up taking home at the end of the week, leaving “poverty-level earnings,” but companies argue that it’s fair given that the fees often cover the cost of the cabs themselves and the dispatch services that connects drivers with customers.
“Yellow Cab was operating at a loss at $145 a week,” King said. As for the perceived unfair treatment of its drivers, King said, “that’s clearly not the case. We don’t have a record of needlessly terminating cab drivers. We have a great deal of respect for our drivers.”
The Arlington County Board reviews the taxicab ordinance every two years, and when the board took up the issue last year, the taxi union demonstrated many of the same concerns and accused the County Board of racism.
The union wants the county to distribute permits to individual drivers, while the code states the nearly 800 permits in circulation are to be allocated to companies. Red Top Cab and Yellow Cab Co. combine to hold 455 operating permits, King said. Blue Top Cab holds about 170.
The union, along with Tenants and Workers United and Virginia New Majority, a progressive advocacy group, are planning future “disruptions” in other parts of Arlington, including in Courthouse, Pentagon City and Shirlington.
“We want to disrupt other areas so they can be made aware,” said Deshundra Jefferson, spokeswoman for Virginia New Majority, said. “Taxicabs are like sweatshops on wheels, and people don’t even know that the drivers are relying on Medicaid and food stamps.”
Video courtesy Virginia New Majority
(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Last week, a pro-gun activist cancelled his planned open carry march from Arlington National Cemetery to the District of Columbia. The planned protest has prompted U.S. Park Police to remind the public that D.C. gun laws apply to certain portions of parkland adjacent the the Potomac River.
March organizer Adam Kokesh encouraged supporters to join him on July 4 in publicly carrying loaded rifles during the march, which he dubbed a “non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.” It was scheduled to begin at Arlington National Cemetery, and then continue over the Memorial Bridge into various parts of the District before returning to Arlington.
As widely reported, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier promised to enforce the District’s strict stringent laws, which ban the carrying of loaded weapons. Lanier suggested police might even meet the marchers at the District line. Last week organizers cancelled the march.
Yesterday, U.S. Park Police sent out a reminder that certain parcels of land along the George Washington Memorial Parkway that appear to be in Virginia — such as Theodore Roosevelt Island and Columbia Island, which includes LBJ Memorial Grove, Lady Bird Johnson Park and the Columbia Island marina — are actually in the District. Therefore, D.C. gun laws apply there.
As seen on the USPP-provided map (above), Columbia Island extends from just below the Roosevelt Bridge to the Humpback Bridge. From the press release:
The proposed “Open Carry March on Washington” that was being organized by Adam Kokesh to occur on July 4, 2013, has been cancelled by him.
The United States Park Police… want[s] to make sure the public is aware that portions of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) is located in the District of Columbia, and that their firearm laws applies there.
Theodore Roosevelt and Columbia Islands are located in the District of Columbia. While most of the GWMP is located in Virginia, both the Theodore Roosevelt Island and Columbia Island is actually located in the District of Columbia. A good rule of thumb for Columbia Island, which includes the LBJ Memorial Grove, Lady Bird Johnson Park and Columbia Island marina, is that it surrounded by the Potomac River to the east and Boundary Channel to the west. The following are various access points that lead to Theodore Roosevelt and Columbia Islands in the District of Columbia:
- The foot bridge leading on to Theodore Roosevelt Island from the parking lot off of the GWMP southbound.
- Northbound GWMP and the Mt. Vernon Trail in the area of Humpback Bridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island.
- Ramp to Rt. 50 from northbound GWMP to Columbia Island.
- Memorial Avenue to Columbia Island.
- Southbound GWMP south of Theodore Roosevelt Island to Humpback Bridge.
- Boundary Channel Dr. @ Rt. 27 to Columbia Island.
- LBJ Memorial Grove footbridge (leading from the Pentagon parking lot) to Columbia Island.
District of Columbia firearms laws apply on Theodore Roosevelt and Columbia Islands. Before entering Theodore Roosevelt and Columbia Islands, people need to know that they are located in the District of Columbia. This is important because since February 22, 2010, 16 USC 1a-7b generally provides that people can legally possess firearms if they are in compliance with the law of the State in which the park area is located.
It remains the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws. For example, D.C. Code 22-4504(a-1) provides that “[e]xcept as otherwise permitted by law, no person shall carry within the District of Columbia a rifle or shotgun.” While there are a number of public sources to locate the firearms laws, the GWMP’s website at www.nps.gov/gwmp/parkmgmt/firearms.htm has hyperlinks to the firearm laws of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Parkland located in Arlington, meanwhile, is subject to the following Virginia gun laws.
Thousands of Armed Protesters Expected on July 4 — Pro-gun activists are planning an open carry protest march from Arlington National Cemetery, across the Memorial Bridge and into D.C. The protest, which is being organized on Facebook, is to take place on July 4. Participants are encouraged to march with loaded rifles slung across their backs. More than 2,000 have indicated their intention to participate in the “non-violent event.” [Huffington Post]
DJO Softball Finishes 24-1 — The elite Bishop O’Connell softball team has finished the regular season with a 24-1 record after consecutive victories against Yorktown and Paul VI. The nationally-ranked Knights will now advance to the playoffs. [Sun Gazette]
Too-Tall Parking Meters Being Replaced — A manufacturer of Arlington’s multi-space parking meters is replacing 16 meters that don’t meet current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements because they’re too tall. The replacements are being done at no cost to the county. [Arlington Mercury]
New Bus Shelters Vandalized in Arlandria — There has been a wave of vandalism directed toward new glass-paned bus shelters in the Arlandria section of Alexandria, adjacent to Arlington. [The Arlandrian]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
The demonstration, organized in part by the Laborers International Union of North America, will protest the “use of immigration status against workers” by Corinthian Contractors, Inc. Arlington residents and local immigration groups are expected to protest outside the company’s Shirlington-area headquarters.
Tejada will “stop by the event,” according to a spokeswoman.
In a press advisory, protest organizers accused Corinthian Contractors of threatening laborers with deportation after they complained about not receiving a fair wage.
On December 2, a group of workers sent a letter to their employer, Corinthian Contractors, Inc., asking to be paid the legally required minimum wages for their work on a DC Water project. On December 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested the workers at their usual meeting spot as they waited for their ride to work. Two bystanders were also arrested.
Following their arrest, Corinthian Contractors continued to threaten the workforce with immigration enforcement. Finally, on December 31, 2012, Corinthian Contractors announced that it suddenly discovered that the I-9s of the entire workforce needed to be immediately “re-verified.” Corinthian took the opportunity during the “re-verification” process to fire almost half of the workers working on DC Water projects. The vast majority of those fired had signed a letter complaining of Corinthian’s failure to pay the legally required wages.
These workers have had their lives torn apart. Some have been deported. Others who remain have seen family members deported. All are still awaiting a determination of their status. And all of this turmoil to is due to the ruthlessness of a contractor who was offended that workers would try to hold him accountable to pay legally required wages.
On Tuesday, these workers will tell Corinthian Contractors that they cannot be intimidated out of their rights and will request the public and public officials to join them in demanding justice for Corinthian’s workers!
The protest is scheduled to take place at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday at 3126 S. Abingdon Street.
In 2010, Corinthian Contractors completed work on a $1.5 million contract for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, according to its website. The company has not responded to a call seeking comment.
An anti-abortion protest was held outside Washington-Lee High School this morning.
A group of anti-abortion protesters held signs and displayed graphic photos of aborted fetuses. This afternoon, W-L principal Gregg Robertson sent an email to parents filling in some details about the protests.
This morning, members of the Human Life Alliance appeared on the public sidewalk in front of Washington-Lee. They had signs and attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion. No advance notice was given to Arlington Public Schools or to Washington-Lee and this was not an approved event. W-L administrators and the Arlington police asked the group to move across the street, but the individuals refused, noting that they were in the public domain on a public sidewalk. While that is true, it is unfortunate that they chose that type of confrontation method to express their views to children who are mostly ages 14-17. Please be assured it is not anything we would ever approve or encourage, and we regret that the events took place this morning.
Some 150 students took to the streets outside Bishop O’Connell High School yesterday to protest the firing of John Harrison, a beloved social studies teacher.
More than 2,600 people have joined a Facebook group called “DJO Alumni against the firing of Mr. Harrison.” In a letter posted on the Facebook group, Harrison says he was told he wasn’t going to have his contract renewed next year so that an assistant to the school’s new football coach could take his job. After students started protesting, he says, the school fired him.
ABC 7 covered the firing and the protests last night (see video, above). Bishop O’Connell officials told the station that they couldn’t discuss individual personnel matters.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) has been arrested at a protest outside the Sudanese embassy in Northwest D.C., along with actor George Clooney and several other activists.
Moran’s office confirmed the arrest, which can be seen in this video from NBC Washington.
“Yes, [Rep. Moran] was taken into custody at the Sudan embassy protesting [Sudanese President Omar] al-Bashir’s actions to starve half a million people,” said Anne Hughes, the congressman’s press secretary.
In a press release yesterday afternoon, Moran’s office explained the impetus for the protest: “President al-Bashir has blocked food and humanitarian aid from entering Sudan’s Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions since June 2011, threatening starvation for half a million Sudanese.”
Moran and Clooney were joined at the protest by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.), Martin Luther King III, NAACP President Ben Jealous, and journalist Nick Clooney, the actor’s father, among other activists and religious leaders. See a press release from Moran’s office, about the protest and the arrests, after the jump.
Photo courtesy United to End Genocide
Update at 5:55 p.m. — The few protesters who made it to the Virginia side of the Key Bridge were “pretty low-key,” says Arlington County police spokeswoman Det. Crystal Nosal. No arrests were made and no injuries were reported. A small group of young protesters wearing anarchist symbols and bandanas over their faces had a brief but peaceful confrontation with Arlington police that ended with the group crossing back into D.C.
Update at 4:50 p.m. — After a peaceful occupation of one of the bridge’s sidewalks, protesters have largely dispersed. Traffic on the Key Bridge is currently light and unobstructed.
Earlier: Several dozen Arlington County police officers in riot gear are stationed on the Virginia side of the Key Bridge, waiting to see if protesters from the Occupy D.C. movement decide to cross.
The heavy police presence on the Rosslyn side of the Potomac is accompanied by the presence of D.C. police mid-span and on the Georgetown side, and a U.S. Park Police helicopter overhead.
A couple hundred protesters are said to be marching in the District, compared to just over a dozen ‘Occupy NoVA’ demonstrators — mostly Verizon CWA union members — who marched down Wilson Boulevard around 3:00 this afternoon.
Yesterday we were the first to report about the newly-formed Occupy NoVA group’s plan to march from Ballston to the Key Bridge.
It’s not clear how many people will show up for the march. At this point, Occupy NoVA appears to be a loose coalition of, at most, a couple dozen people. And unlike their Occupy D.C. and Occupy Wall Street brethren, Occupy NoVA is not occupying anything at the moment. The group has not yet established any encampments — but they say that future plans are up for discussion.
Though Arlington is generally considered a bastion of progressivism in an otherwise right-leaning state, would county residents and workers support a move by Occupy NoVA to occupy a local park or square?
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) A newly-formed group called ‘Occupy NoVA‘ plans to march from Ballston’s Welburn Square to the Key Bridge on Thursday afternoon.
“A national day of action is taking place around the country in the Occupy movement,” Occupy NoVA said on its website. “We are going to be marching on this day in solidarity with Occupy DC, from Welburn Square to join in a Labor-Community-Occupy Day of Action and March on the Key Bridge in Rosslyn/Georgetown in protest of the deterioration of our public infrastructure and public services.”
Protesters are expected to gather in Welburn Square at 2:00 p.m., before starting their march around 3:30 p.m. The marching route — which would take demonstrators through the heart of Clarendon, Courthouse and Rosslyn — includes parts of Wilson Boulevard, Clarendon Boulevard and N. Lynn Street. It’s not clear if protesters will be marching on the sidewalk or in the street.
So far, Arlington County Police have not had any comment on their planned response to the protest. Last week an Occupy D.C. spokesman told ARLnow.com that the movement was aware of the Occupy NoVA group’s existence.
Occupy NoVA has not yet set up any encampments, but the group says on its website that it will discuss further plans at meetings on Thursday.
GMU “Protest” Quiet, Peaceful — A protest last night against Nonie Darwish, an outspoken critic of Islam who was speaking at George Mason University’s law school, proved to be a peaceful, academic exercise. Students gathered in a classroom to hear Muslim speakers talk about the experience of practicing their faith in the United States at a time when many are suspicious about Islam. “They don’t want to see an America that’s diverse and pluralistic,” said one protest speaker. Darwish’s well-attended speech, meanwhile, focused on what she saw as the injustices of Islam, Sharia law and Jihad.
Post Looks at Favola/Merrick Race — Does Republican Caren Merrick have a chance to win in the redrawn, Democratic-leaning 31st state Senate District? The Post takes a look at the race between Merrick and Democratic Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola. [Washington Post]
New White House Chief Usher Has Local Ties — This week Angella Reid was appointed the new Chief Usher of the White House — in charge of the operation of the White House executive residence. Reid, who had been general manager of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City, is the first woman to assume the title. [BET]
Moran Gets New Website — Rep. Jim Moran has a brand new website. “The new Moran website improves accessibility to information that can help residents navigate and expedite the federal bureaucracy,” the congressman’s office said. “[The site] offers a straightforward format for residents to provide feedback on issues, learn of Moran’s policy positions and legislation, and find information on constituent services.” [Congressman Jim Moran]
(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) A number of groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Arab Law Students Association and the American Constitution Society, will be participating in an “anti-hate” protest at the George Mason University School of Law in Virginia Square tonight.
The groups will be protesting a speaking engagement at the school by Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian-American author and speaker who has brought her anti-Islam, pro-Israel message to numerous college campuses in the U.S. and abroad. Critics call Darwish a “radical anti-Muslim Islamophobe” and point to a recent video of her speaking at a protest in Florida as evidence.
“Islam is a poison to a society. It’s divisive. It’s hateful… It’s full of anti-Semitism,” Darwish said in the video. “Because Islam should be feared, and should be fought, and should be conquered, and defeated, and annihilated, and it’s going to happen… Islam is based on lies and it’s not based on the truth. I have no doubt whatsoever that Islam is going to be destroyed.”
Darwish, who is particularly critical of Islam’s treatment of women and minorities, was invited to speak at the school by the GMU student chapter of the Federalist Society and the Jewish Law Students Association. The controversy over her invitation has attracted attention from the popular Above the Law blog and a blog called “LoonWatch.”
GMU law dean Daniel Polsby was even compelled to weigh in on the controversy. In an email, Polsby told students that “the law school will not exercise editorial control over the words of speakers invited by student organizations, nor will we take responsibility for them, nor will we endorse or condemn them.”
“Sometimes speakers are invited who are known to espouse controversial points of view,” Polsby wrote. “Just as speakers are free to speak, protesters are free to protest.”
The protests are scheduled to start at 4:00 p.m. at Hazel Hall, Room 225, at 3301 N. Fairfax Drive. The speech by Darwish is scheduled to take place at 5:00 p.m., and is open to GMU law students only.
Photo via Wikipedia
From the Associated Press to the New York Times to Iran’s Press TV, Wednesday night’s public forum on the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, held at George Mason University’s Founders Hall in Virginia Square, generated plenty of headlines.
The forum was organized as a listening session by a volunteer task force charged with recommending changes to Secure Communities, which Arlington tried and failed to opt out of last year.
After a raucous hour of impassioned speeches, about 150 pro-immigrant demonstrators marched and chanted their way out of the building, declaring the forum an “absolute sham” and demanding that the task force resign. The walkout — and many of the speeches and chants that preceded it — was choreographed by the group CASA de Maryland, which has been speaking out against Secure Communities since its inception.
Armed with signs and slogans, group members helped to pack the auditorium at GMU to its 300 person capacity. Numerous speakers — including ministers, monks, attorneys, activists and County Board member Walter Tejada — told of Secure Communities’ alleged impacts, from the deportation of teenagers to the threatened deportation of accident victims. While it’s supposed to help track down undocumented perpetrators of serious crimes, Secure Communities is not working as the Obama Administration intended, immigrant advocates argued.
The demonstrators’ pivotal moment came when two undocumented mothers, facing deportation proceedings, confronted Marc Rapp, who had been inconspicuously sitting in the audience, observing the proceedings. Rapp, the Department of Homeland Security official in charge of overseeing the Secure Communities program, was told through an interpreter that one of the women, Maria Bolanos, was picked up after she called police during a fight with her domestic partner. She decried Secure Communities and asked to be reunited with her children, as Rapp listened quietly.
Shortly thereafter the CASA protesters filed out of the room, shouting “end it, don’t mend it.” After a noisy demonstration outside the building, they marched down Fairfax Drive and into nearby St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
Back inside at GMU, the discussion continued. Several people spoke in favor of Secure Communities. With the protesters out of the building, there were fewer hisses and boos as they spoke of the need to make sure the country’s laws are followed.
“If you’re going to be an illegal immigrant in this country, the least you can do is not do crime and not get arrested,” said Columbia Pike resident John Antonelli. Other speakers suggested the 9/11 terror attacks could have been prevented by stricter immigration enforcement.
Ofelia Calderon, an immigration attorney who works in Virginia Square, “thanked” members of the task force for the extra business she’s been getting because of Secure Communities.