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Amid Parking Tensions, a Racially-Charged Vandalism

Someone keyed the words “black bitch” onto a black man’s car on a block in Arlington’s Barcroft neighborhood, where some residents are up in arms about outsiders parking on their street.

The man, who works as a contractor at the Army National Guard Readiness Center (111 S. George Mason Drive), parked his car near the corner of S. Pershing Drive and 1st Street S. this past Thursday morning. When he arrived back at the car that afternoon, he found the words carved onto his driver’s side door and called police.

Officers photographed the car and dusted it for fingerprints. They also took “elimination prints” from the man and Evie Bernard, who carpools with him.

Bernard says she suspects the vandalism was actually targeted at her. She said some residents on the block have confronted her and other commuters about parking, even though it’s a public street and — unlike other nearby streets — not zoned for resident-only parking.

The prior Sunday, Bernard said, she had just returned from a brief vacation when a resident came out of his house and “started yelling and saying never to park there again.” The man, who was pointing his finger and “being very aggressive,” was soon joined by his wife and one of their children, who were all yelling at Bernard for parking in front of their house, she said.

“How would you feel if I parked in front of your house in Waldorf, Maryland?” one of them asked, according to Bernard’s account. The residents had somehow obtained Bernard’s name and apparently looked her up on Facebook, also referencing where she went on vacation and saying “I know where you work.” After about 5 minutes, Bernard drove away and then decided to call police.

“I was so upset that I got in my car and drove away,” she said. “I could only take so much… I was really upset. It was pretty much a nightmare.

Police took a report, Bernard said, but because her life was not threatened it was determined that no crime had occurred. An Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman corroborated that a report of verbal harassment had been filed.

Though Bernard initially suspected the people who confronted her — who are white — might have been responsible for the vandalism, police said today (Tuesday) that the residents have been eliminated as suspects.

Bernard and another Army National Guard contractor who contacted ARLnow.com said the parking issue is not likely to be solved anytime soon. Parking at the George Mason Drive campus is limited and most spots are reserved for employees; contractors are instructed to take transit or park on nearby streets.

While there were plenty of spots available on the 4400 block of 1st Street S. when an ARLnow reporter visited Monday afternoon, a resident said that there are times when the block is filled with cars, including many commuters. He said that residents have tried to apply for zoned parking, but a county parking study did not find enough commuter parking to meet the program threshold.

Earlier this month new zone parking applications were halted indefinitely, pending a review.

A block away, 1st Road S. — which is closer to a walkway to George Mason Drive — is zoned for resident-only parking and also had numerous open spaces. Bernard said she understands residents’ frustration, but at the same time that does not justify harassing commuters who are parking legally and trying to get to and from their jobs.

“It’s public parking,” she said. “The drivers of those vehicles are not the people they should be yelling at.”

According to Bernard, the Army National Guard held a town hall meeting recently where the parking issue was brought up and several people relayed stories of being confronted by residents, including those that yelled at her.

“I don’t want to park there, I wish we did have parking… but that’s still no reason to treat someone that way,” said Bernard, adding that her employer has provided temporary garage parking for her and has been supportive following the incident.

The 1st Street S. resident who spoke to ARLnow.com said the neighborhood is generally friendly and filled with residents who have school-aged children — as reflected by the nearly half-dozen portable basketball hoops that line the street. He said that he understands that the commuters “have to park somewhere.”

Police, meanwhile, say they are continuing to investigate the vandalism and engage with local residents.

“Parking in this area is not restricted by zone or permit parking,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The Third District Community Policing Team is aware of the issue and has reached out to residents of the area to address.”

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