Two residents of the Fairlington Arbor condominiums were told by the condo board to dig up their spooky gravestones that seek to lay bigotry to rest.
Katrina Reed and her husband Joe decked out their yard with six decorative gravestones, but they papered over the space for names of the deceased to bury hate, racism, religions discrimination, sexism, homophobia and white supremacy instead.
Both Reeds teach and coach high school basketball. As teachers, Katrina said they strive to create an inclusive environment in their remote and in-person classrooms.
“Our thought process was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to be inclusive at home?'” she said.
The death-to-discrimination markers received a lot of love from neighbors, but drew the ire of the Fairlington Arbor management. The dispute centers around whether the gravestones are signs, which are not allowed unless the Board of Directors approve them, or seasonal decor, which are allowed if they are “modest and in keeping with community norms.”
A letter from management and addressed to the Reeds on behalf of the Fairlington Arbor Board of Directors asked them to “correct this matter” to “avoid further action by the Board of Directors.”
The letter treats the gravestones as decor, but the messages as signs.
“While the frames on your sign are compliant, the content is not,” the letter said. Joe disputed the application of the bylaw in an email to management.
“The signs displayed are not deemed ‘seasonal’ by the board since they display a message that does not fit the Halloween occasion,” Arbor management said in response.
The letter’s author, Fairlington Arbor’s general manager, declined to comment further. In an automated message, Matt Duncan, the President of the Board of Directors, said he is out of office and referred inquiries to management.
In a private neighborhood Facebook group, Katrina asked her neighbors for advice and to see if others had similar experiences. The response was overwhelming, with more than 175 comments on Katrina’s post so far.
“People went nuts,” she said. “They were ready to light their pitchforks and find the board members.”
One Facebook commenter said of the decorations: “We thought they were awesome. 10/10. Do not take them down.”
“These have made me very happy every time I walk by!” another said.
The couple maintains that stifling free speech causes more division than signs promoting inclusivity.
“If you can let people express First Amendment rights within a time period, I think it solves these issues,” Joe said.
The couple said the bylaws need to be clarified and they plan to speak about it during the next board meeting on Oct. 27. Joe said ironically, he was on the board and helped write the bylaws.
“I don’t envy them,” he said.
On Facebook, some theorized that the condo board was pushed to take action by a handful of complainers.
“Neighbors have been complimentary of our messages of inclusion, but I seem to have offended the racists, homophobes, etc.,” Katrina wrote in her post.
Others guessed that the current political climate might have caused an overreaction by condo management.
“It’s probable that no one is offended by your decorations but management just wants to head off something truly objectionable,” wrote one commenter, who congratulated the couple for speaking up.
This summer, the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington was the site of a showdown between those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and counter-demonstrators who replaced BLM slogans with pro-Trump messages.
If you live in the right type of home in the right place, Arlington County will reserve street parking for you and your neighbors for much of the day.
But the Residential Permit Parking program is under review and a county staff recommendation on whether it should continue as currently conceived is expected soon.
The review has dragged on since it was launched in 2017, when the county put a moratorium on approving new permit parking zones, and was further delayed by the pandemic. County officials, however, now say they’re going to skip holding more public engagement meetings on the topic, either virtual or in-person, and move forward with the aim of County Board action in January.
Meetings had been planned for the spring, but were cancelled due to health concerns. A county spokeswoman says county staff decided against additional meetings due to equity concerns.
“Staff looked into holding the dialogues online but decided that holding online dialogues would not be an adequate replacement,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien told ARLnow. “There are tools for holding the dialogues online, but there are challenges to bringing together a diverse group of Arlingtonians for a meeting of three hours or more online.”
“An inclusive group of participants at the dialogues would be especially necessary because residents are divided on the RPP program,” she continued. “The County could have waited until in-person public meetings resume but continuing to delay the RPP Review increases the chance that decision-makers will see the feedback currently captured as out-of-date. Delaying the review also continues the moratorium on petitions for new or modified restrictions.”
There are few issues that raise local passions like parking, and the RPP program has sharply divided residents.
The program started in the early 1970s, when Aurora Highlands residents successfully petitioned the Arlington County Board to approve restrictions that would keep Crystal City commuters from parking in the neighborhood. The county won a Supreme Court challenge to the restrictions and gradually expanded the program to other neighborhoods.
Eventually, residents of new apartment buildings and condos were excluded from the program, as access to street parking became a sticking point with neighbors of proposed new developments. And neighborhoods well away from Metro stations and office districts started getting approved for restrictions.
The tide started to turn against the program a few years ago, as more neighborhoods sought to add parking restrictions, raising questions about the fairness of reserving increasingly large portions of the public road network for the vehicles of certain residents.
Last year, the County Board repealed some RPP restrictions in the Forest Glen and Arlington Mill neighborhoods, which apartment residents said made it difficult to park in the neighborhood for those who do not work a traditional 9-5 job. The decision was contentious, however.
A recently-released report on the RPP review process includes comments from surveys that further reflect the divide.
“It doesn’t seem fair to me who is eligible now. Higher density homes with less curb space should be eligible as single family homes,” said one resident quoted in the report.
“The County should NOT make apartment, condo, and townhouse residents eligible for parking permits because it will encourage more cars and further overcrowd parking resources,” said another.
The report notes that the population eligible for RPP skews whiter and more affluent than those who are not eligible. White residents are 84% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 76% of the population outside of RPP zones. Households making $200,000 or more are 32% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 19% in non-RPP zones.
Furthermore, only 25% of those enrolled in RPP live in multifamily buildings like apartments and condos; by comparison, 71% of Arlington’s overall population lives in multifamily housing.
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) A month and a half ago, the Arlington branch of the NAACP publicly called for the county’s logo to be changed. Over the weekend, members of the County Board voiced support for that change.
Arlington’s logo, along with its flag, depicts Arlington House, the county’s namesake that sits atop a hill in Arlington National Cemetery. The house was built by enslaved persons in the early 1800s on the orders of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington’s adopted son.
The house was later home to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who married into the slave-owning Custis family, before the property was seized by the federal government during the Civil War and ultimately turned into the nation’s most hallowed military cemetery.
Julius Spain, Sr., head of the Arlington NAACP, spoke at Saturday’s County Board meeting and reiterated the branch’s call for the logo to be nixed — saying it should be done as soon as possible, rather than after a prolonged process.
“Let me be perfectly clear: atrocities were committed in the area of Arlington House,” he said. “That is a fact, and for that reason alone that should be enough.”
Spain’s remarks were supported by a half dozen other locals during the virtual meeting, including former Arlington School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez.
Recently-elected County Board member Takis Karantonis was the first to respond to Spain’s comments and the most forceful in agreeing that the logo has to go now.
“It is nothing more and nothing less than a plantation house, and we cannot look away from this,” Karantonis said. “This simply cannot represent our government. For sure it doesn’t represent me and I don’t think it represents any of you, my colleagues, the County Manager, our civil servants.”
Karantonis then held his County Board business card up to the camera.
“I cannot say that Black lives matter today, in this summer of 2020, and at the same time pull out a business card with a plantation house printed on it,” he said. “So I believe this is urgent and compelling, and we can… retire this logo. It is time to move on from this.”
Other County Board members who spoke agreed with the need to change the logo, but did not commit to doing so as quickly as hoped for by Spain.
“It’s critical that we begin this community conversation,” said Katie Cristol.
“Arlington’s seal and logo must be replaced as soon as is reasonably possible,” said Matt de Ferranti. “Both are visible representations of a building that’s principal legacy is as a slave plantation, and thus must be replaced to be consistent with the inclusive, diverse community we aspire to be.”
De Ferranti said the Board needs to consider the process and standard for replacing the logo, while also remaining focused on other racial justice matters.
Christian Dorsey, the only Black member of the Board, said the county must deal with systematic racism, including the logo, in a comprehensive manner.
“I’d take perhaps a broader view that there are other symbols and names in our community that predate the confederacy, that postdate the confederacy, that are nonetheless symbols of systemic racism and oppression,” Dorsey said. “To address one without addressing the other to me is beneath the capability of our community to actually move forward with a symbolic and a substantive approach to dealing with systemic racism. I hope people will be patient.”
County Board Chair Libby Garvey said the county’s logo will be the topic of further discussion during the Board’s meeting on Tuesday. Arlington is also planning community roundtable discussions on systemic racism, and has kicked off an effort to rename Lee Highway.
Spain, meanwhile, said that the county flag and street names are not nearly as meaningful as the county’s chosen logo, and the latter should take priority. In a letter, he said the Board should be able to remove the logo within 2-3 months.
The owner of the Arlington Smoke Shop in Green Valley says charges have been dropped against the alleged burglar shot by a store employee.
Jowan Zuber said this week on a GoFundMe page for the employee, Hamzeh Abushariah, that the “mastermind of the burglary” was “allowed to walk free” by prosecutors — while Abushariah remains under house arrest, facing serious charges in connection to the March 29 shooting.
Two other alleged burglars are still facing charges, after police say they broke into the store at 2428 Shirlington Road early in the morning and attempted to steal items. Abushariah was sleeping in a backroom of the store at the time, but woke up and grabbed the store’s gun. Zuber says the person who was shot is being “protected” by prosecutors.
“I can’t believe they’re protecting the criminal,” he said last night on Tucker Carlson Tonight, his second appearance on top-rated the Fox News opinion show. “I’m sure if the criminal broke into their house they would be doing 10 years in jail right now.”
Prosecutors, meanwhile, declined to confirm that charges were dropped against the suspect, who — like the other two — are juveniles.
“Based on the ethical rules which govern lawyers and prosecutors, we are very limited in what we can say about cases — and even more limited in what we can say about juvenile cases,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said Monday, in response to an ARLnow inquiry. “The only question I can answer is that the case of the adult (shooter) is still pending.”
ARLnow previously reported that the third suspect had not been charged and was still “in a medical facility” almost one month after the shooting. Zuber told the Daily Caller that he appeared in court in a wheelchair.
Despite the juvenile’s injuries, Zuber said last night that it was not fair for Abushariah to be facing charges and the alleged organizer of the crime to be free, suggesting without additional evidence that there might be a political motivation.
“This is so sad and so shocking, the justice system is not working in Arlington,” he said. “The prosecutor’s office is very upset that I came on your show and spoke the truth and now they’re looking at the whole thing a different way.”
Following a preliminary hearing on July 30, Abushariah’s case is now heading to Arlington Circuit Court. Zuber wants police to release the full surveillance video of the shooting, which he claims shows the now-free suspect “lunging” at Abushariah before the shooting. Prosecutors say the boy was shot “point blank” in the back.
“I hope that Arlington County will share the video exactly,” Zuber said.
Zuber noted that Abushariah is under house arrest and cannot work or take his kids to the park, but still has to pay more than $1,000 per month in child support and fees for his court-mandated GPS monitor. The GoFundMe for Abushariah has raised more than $10,000 since last night’s “Tucker” show, and now stands at $13,349 of a $100,000 goal.
Zuber said the handling of the burglary case sends a bad message to young people.
“Hey you can go rob and steal and the prosecutor will stand next to you and defend you,” he said. “This is sad for justice, this is injustice.”
Fulfilling a long-delayed promise, Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey dropped off a cashier’s check for $10,000 to the headquarters of the Amalgamated Transit Union International yesterday.
The action is, one would assume, the last chapter in the saga of a political donation that caused Dorsey to lose his seat on the WMATA Board and lose the trust of some of his constituents in Arlington.
Dorsey was ordered by the WMATA Board to return the $10,000 political donation to his Christian Dorsey for County Board political committee due to a conflict of interest — between his role in helping to run the transit agency and his acceptance of a donation from its largest labor union. He also faced ethics scrutiny for not disclosing the donation for four months.
Dorsey resigned from the WMATA Board in February after failing to return the donation; at the time, he did not have sufficient funds in his campaign account to do so. Most of Dorsey’s campaign cash in 2019 went to himself and his wife, in the form of loan repayments and payments for campaign services, respectively.
Dorsey filed for personal bankruptcy in October 2019. The bankruptcy case was still active in federal court as of last week.
Friends helped to raise additional campaign funds for Dorsey in February and March, despite him not being up for reelection until 2023. In addition to donations from fellow elected officials and from individuals, Dorsey accepted $1,000 from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and $2,000 from Steamfitters Local Union #602.
Dorsey wrote a $10,000 check dated Feb. 24, 2020 and sent it to ATU International but, according to reporting by the Washington Post last week, the check was somehow lost when it was sent from the union to the bank.
In response to subsequent inquiries from ARLnow, Dorsey said on Thursday that he had dropped off a cashier’s check drawn from his campaign account. He provided a photo of the check, and ATU International spokesman David Roscow confirmed that it had been received.
“I’d like for this saga to be closed as well, and will cooperate as necessary to do so,” Dorsey told ARLnow earlier in the week, though he added that he saw it as closed “at least as it pertains to my responsibility in the matter.”
“My promise was to return the contribution, which I did, as evidenced through the certified mail receipt and acknowledgment by ATU in February/March,” he said. “That they didn’t process it is a matter I cannot speak to, nor can I reasonably be held responsible for.”
According to the Virginia Dept. of Elections website, Dorsey’s campaign initially submitted a campaign finance report on July 15 that did not include the February return of the donation. That report was amended on July 19, to include the $10,000 check as an expenditure. The Post reported on July 23 that the check was never cashed.
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) On Friday, Arlington County workers — dispatched after a resident complained — power washed away a girl’s Black Lives Matter chalk art from in front of her Boulevard Manor home. After an uproar, the county later apologized.
A memo from County Manager Mark Schwartz, sent to county employees on Saturday and obtained by ARLnow, shows some of the internal soul searching that followed the incident.
The memo says that Schwartz first heard about what happened due to “an inquiry from the press” — ARLnow first asked the county for comment around 10:30 a.m. He learned that the sequence of events started when “a resident complaint about ‘graffiti.'” Then he saw the photos of county employees erasing quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among other phrases and drawings.
“A series of flowers, hearts, and quotations focusing on understanding and the sanctity of Black lives had been removed by 3 county employees — all 3 are Black,” Schwartz wrote. “What was first described as graffiti removal became obviously something very different. My heart sank. How could this have happened? On Juneteenth of all days? I was sick.”
Schwartz says he asked himself a series of questions, including how those involved in the incident were doing and “In the time of pandemic, why are our limited resources being used to remove chalk from the street?”
He concluded that the employees and family involved, as well as county taxpayers, are all owed apologies. He personally delivered the apology to the workers. Among those to reach out to the family were Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey and Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services Director Greg Emanuel.
Schwartz ruminated on how the incident could have taken place despite the county’s focus on equity. He focused both on how the employees involved did not feel empowered to question their orders, and how the county has created a complaint-based system of resident services.
“Calling the ‘authorities’ is the wrong way to address our concerns as neighbors and community members,” Schwartz wrote. “This should be reserved for cases where our safety is at risk.”
The workers involved were not empowered “to make a judgment better than stipulated by the letter of the policy,” the county manager wrote. “The way we currently operate, it is too hard for employees to question what they are asked to do under a policy that is blind to feelings, nuance and the world we live in.”
Other notable questions raised by Schwartz in the memo include:
- “Was this possibly the worst example of how we ignore equity in doing our work?”
- “[Does] our complaint driven enforcement efforts lead us to address concerns (regardless of how serious they are) by some residents for any problem that frustrates them, while larger problems that affect our residents go unaddressed?”
- “[Are we] intentional about reaching impacted residents during public engagement processes, or only those who show up regularly?”
In the memo, Schwartz notes that the county will soon be hiring a Chief Equity and Diversity Officer, who will report directly to the county manager.
“This will take some time, but it is an overdue step,” he said.
The full memo is below.
A neighbor complained about the chalk creations, which included quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, leading to the county response. Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services crews will remove any such markings, regardless of the message, upon receiving a complaint, the county said.
The county issued the following statement Friday night:
We apologize for this unfortunate situation, particularly on such an important day, Juneteenth. Our crews were following policy to remove markings, regardless of the message, on County right-of-way in response to a received complaint. None of the markings were removed from private property.
We understand the deep feelings that are present in the community. Our mission is to deliver public services based on established policies in a consistent manner. We’re reviewing our policy. Our crews take great pride in keeping Arlington clean and safe.
On Friday night, the neighborhood’s civic association condemned the removal of the chalk art and demanded answers from the county.
“These chalk drawings were expressions of solidarity with current racial justice protests done by African-American children, and whose father is a US Navy officer,” wrote the Boulevard Manor Civic Association. “The DES employees were ‘ordered’ to power wash the children’s chalk drawings as another resident in BMCA ‘complained.’ BMCA strongly condemns, is saddened, and is disappointed in the above action taken by DES.”
The Arlington branch of the NAACP said it “sent the County Board a communication” as well.
Earlier Friday, Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey called the removal “a mistake” and “wrong.”
“It was a mistake to prioritize responding to this call during a pandemic where our workers should not be deployed unnecessarily,” Dorsey told ARLnow. “Furthermore, removal of the chalk art from a driveway apron, widely known to be the responsibility of the resident, was wrong.”
“We apologize to the residents for erasing their expressions from their property and to our workers who were directed to do it,” Dorsey continued. “That this occurred as our County gathered to reflect on the unfulfilled promise of Black liberation on Juneteenth adds further insult, and compels us to confront the role of our government in perpetuating systemic inequities. We can, must, and will do better.”
Despite rain yesterday, residents came out to support the family whose drawings were removed, adding more chalk art and quotes to the street, sidewalk and driveway. More expressions of solidarity are expected today.
“We plan to go out again to line the streets and sidewalks with messages of solidarity and support for the Hamptons,” a tipster tells ARLnow.
Many showed up today 🙂 pic.twitter.com/rMfnXh7HiM
— Jess (@MzJessI3) June 20, 2020
— Amy Slavin, NBCT (@SlavinTeach) June 19, 2020
(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington County workers power washed away Black Lives Matter chalk art in front of a home in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood this morning.
An outraged neighbor posted on social media about the removal of the chalk art, which featured words and phrases like “There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” “Justice 4 All,” “MLK,” and “BLM.” A portion of the art was on the county-owned sidewalk and road, while the rest was in the home’s driveway.
“I am both saddened and outraged. My friend and colleague at Ashlawn has had a formal complaint made about her daughter’s chalk art on the driveway, sidewalk and street in front of their home,” wrote Dana Crepeau. “I spoke with the Arlington County employees, who did not want to remove the chalk but were told they must. I asked permission to post their photos.”
“It appears the neighbor who called the county has previously taken it upon herself to erase other chalk drawings in support of Black Lives Matter,” Crepeau added. She noted that today (Friday) is Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the emancipation of the last enslaved persons during the Civil War, which just became a state holiday in Virginia.
“Do I understand correctly that the county forced Black employees to erase messages in support of Black Lives Matter on Juneteenth and apparently saw no problem with that?” asked a commenter on Crepeau’s Facebook post.
“Yes, you are understanding this correctly,” she replied.
The residents were not home when an ARLnow reporter knocked on the door shortly before noon. The mother of the girl whose art was erased — Yvaal Hampton, a second grade teacher at Ashlawn Elementary — said in an email sent to the neighborhood listserv that “today, I feel like an outsider.”
Dear Boulevard Manor,
When my family and I moved into the neighborhood about a year and a half ago we were welcomed by a few amazing neighbors and I thought “this is going to be great.” Well today, I feel like an outsider. With the on-going racial climate that we are in, my kids and I wanted to express some of our feelings and thoughts in chalk outside of our house. Not a novice idea, right? Well this morning I hear loud voices outside of my window, so I go outside to see what’s going on. There were three African American city workers outside power washing our chalk expressions/drawing away because a neighbor complained. I had a lot of emotions running through me, but then one of the gentlemen said “Miss I don’t really want to have to do this, but my boss told be that I have to do it.” Then I felt sad for them, they were forced to remove a Dr. King quote and children’s artwork because a neighbor felt someway about it (angry, threatened… who knows). If it were flowers and sunshine drawings would she have complained? Today, I feel like an outsider, but this outsider stands by her chalk messages “Justice for All”, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Thank you Dr. King for your wise words. #BlackLivesMatter
ARLnow is still awaiting an official statement from Arlington County, which held a Juneteenth Peace Rally in front of county government headquarters in Courthouse this morning. (Update at 9:15 a.m.: The county issued an apology last night.)
Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey told ARLnow that he is disturbed by the incident and awaiting more information on what happened. In the meantime, he offered an apology to the residents.
“We await a full understanding of the facts, but what is known at the moment disturbs us greatly,” Dorsey said. “It was a mistake to prioritize responding to this call during a pandemic where our workers should not be deployed unnecessarily. Furthermore, removal of the chalk art from a driveway apron, widely known to be the responsibility of the resident, was wrong.”
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) It was a seemingly uncontroversial item on the County Board agenda: shifting a temporary parking lot for television station WETA down the block, in order to allow renovations to Jennie Dean Park to proceed.
But the proposal, which was approved unanimously last night after a detailed discussion, ended up raising questions about race, equity and public engagement. It was the subject of a recent op-ed published by the Sun Gazette entitled “Arlington government again fails Green Valley,” accusing the county of repeatedly ignoring the wishes of the historically Black neighborhood.
“While millions marched for equity and racial justice last week, the Arlington County government posted a board agenda item that turns these actions into mere slogans,” wrote Green Valley Civic Association members Robin Stombler and Portia Clark. “A license agreement would have the county government turn a newly acquired $1 million property in the Green Valley community into a parking lot for WETA. This action is but one in a series of events that draw attention to the inequity systemic within the county.”
The discussion at Tuesday’s County Board meeting did not include much talk of race or equity. Instead, it mostly addressed the practical matter at hand: about 10 employees of the nearby WETA facility, which produces the PBS NewsHour, were parking on a temporary, county-owned lot that is set to become a playground in Phase 1 of the Jennie Dean expansion. To allow construction to move forward, they would be moved to a lot a short distance away on S. Four Mile Run Drive, between a small commercial building and the Weenie Beenie.
Demolition of the building that will become the new WETA lot started last week, a county staffer said. Heavy construction on the park is set to begin in late summer or early fall. Without use of the current temporary lot, “we would not be able to build out the project as designed,” the staffer said.
The Green Valley neighborhood didn’t want the current WETA lot and doesn’t want the new lot, said Stombler. And notification of the change — it was advertised in the lightly-read Washington Times newspaper, as are Arlington’s other public notices — was inadequate.
“Publishing notices in the Washington Times and considering it an outreach method is very telling of how the county regards Green Valley and community input in general,” Stomber said. We deserve much better… The county’s engagement processes must be improved.”
The remarks echo complaints from Green Valley residents two years about the lengthy design process for Jennie Dean Park.
“This community has been ignored repeatedly by the Arlington County Board while the requests and desires of several other, predominantly white, Arlington neighborhoods are being placed ahead of those of the people who live here,” one resident told ARLnow at the time.
“I feel like we’re second class citizens,” said a resident during the public comment period last night.
Nonetheless, under an agreement approved by the Board, WETA will be granted temporary use of the newly-created lot for a year, after which its use can be reevaluated. Eventually, the lot will become part of park, in the second phase of its expansion. And the county will get something in return for the temporary use.
“The compensation to the County for the Amended and Restated License Agreement will be in the form of 12, 15-second promotional underwriting credit spots on WETA’s radio programs during each calendar year,” a staff report says.
Stombler and Clark — who support the expansion of WETA’s Shirlington headquarters that will see its aging NewsHour studio eventually demolished — said that the radio ads will not do anything to benefit the neighborhood.
“The county government must reassess its engagement processes to correct these actions, and must be held accountable for practices that marginalize segments of our community,” the op-ed said. “More innovative and compassionate solutions should be encouraged. Local hiring, paid internships, job fair hosting and community clean-ups beat 12 ego-boosting radio spots any day.”
Photos (1-2) via Arlington County, (3-4) via Google Maps
(Updated at 10 a.m.) Despite what you might have seen on TV, the Arlington police officers who were sent to assist the response to protests in D.C. conducted themselves professionally, county leaders say.
In a half-hour phone interview with ARLnow, Police Chief M. Jay Farr, County Board Chair Libby Garvey and County Manager Mark Schwartz discussed the decision to send officers to help U.S. Park Police in D.C., and the subsequent decision to bring them back to Arlington — which is facing criticism from the local police association.
The origin of what has become a national news story started Saturday night, when U.S. Park Police — facing mounting officer injuries and exhaustion from guarding Lafayette Square, near the White House, amid large-scale protests over the death of George Floyd — formally made a mutual aid request for Arlington County Police to assist 0n Sunday. Such requests are common in the multi-jurisdictional D.C. region, and made for everything from suspect searches to large events like an inauguration.
“The numbers and the amount of protests had accelerated to the point that they definitely could use our assistance,” Farr said. ACPD was also asked to help fill in for USPP by patrolling the George Washington Parkway. Alexandria and smaller local jurisdictions were not asked to provide
Farr agreed to the requests, Schwartz and Garvey were informed and concurred with the decision, and on Sunday Arlington officers in riot gear made their way to the District.
The officers were held in reserve for much of the day but at night, as peaceful protests gradually gave way to violence and destruction, they were called to help push protesters back, allowing D.C. firefighters to battle several fires, including at St. John’s Church. Live news footage showed the officers in their ACPD riot helmets, maintaining a perimeter as objects were thrown in their direction,
On Monday, Park Police asked ACPD for another day of aid, pending the arrival of backup from other federal law enforcement agencies. Dozens of USPP officers had been injured in the protests, out of a force of about 300, Farr said. Arlington again agreed to the request. But this time turned out to be different.
A harbinger, Schwartz said, was a conference call President Trump held with the nation’s governors, in which he told them that “you have to dominate” to control the protests.
“It was a disturbing phone call,” said Schwartz. But it wasn’t until shortly after he read about the call that word reached him about what had happened in front of Lafayette Square.
It was 6:35 p.m when police at the park, including Arlington officers, started to suddenly move toward the crowd, which had to that point been mostly peaceful.
Live coverage on CNN showed Arlington officers on left side of the screen, forcefully but steadily pushing back a small group of protesters. To their right, other riot gear-clad officers — Farr believes at least some of them were Park Police — shoved members of the crowd much more aggressively. Cloud-spewing munitions were fired, which some believed to be tear gas, something USPP denied Tuesday.
Shortly after protesters were pushed out of the way, President Trump walked out of the White House, walked to the fire-damaged church, held up a bible as photos were taken, and then walked back.
Here's the moment where police fired teargas into a crowd of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park, just minutes before Trump's address in the Rose Garden. pic.twitter.com/KPjxMKdDyx
— Cameron Peters (@jcameronpeters) June 1, 2020
Pres. Trump walked from the White House, across Lafayette Park, to the historic St. John’s Church Monday night. In front of the boarded up building, damaged in protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, Pres. Trump held a bible in hand and posed for a photo with staff. pic.twitter.com/X40Re3Zori
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) June 2, 2020
Ahead of @POTUS's arrival at St. John's Church yesterday, armored police used tear gas to clear hundreds of peaceful demonstrators from a nearby park.
Authorities also expelled at least one Episcopal priest and a seminarian from the church’s patio.https://t.co/zmsKKiVJP9
— Religion News Service (@RNS) June 2, 2020
Outrage followed on social media. Images of Arlington officers in the midst of the fracas, including one holding a pepper ball gun (as seen above), started to make the rounds.
“This is absolutely not what our tax dollars should be used for,” one local tweeted. “Nothing about this made Arlington or DC safer.”
Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol says she was wrong to suggest that a local beer garden should be shut down over the weekend.
“A bunch of selfish a**holes in Arlington, VA this evening,” Parkhomenko said in his tweet, which went viral and racked up thousands of likes and retweets. Many of those sharing the post decried how such crowding could exacerbate the pandemic.
“Well, this sucks,” Cristol wrote in her response to the tweet. “We’re in this together, and are going to have a hard time continuing to move forward if folks/establishments won’t do the basics of masks & distancing. All: Please help us follow up (and shut this stuff down) by reporting.”
Cristol also shared a link to a “non-compliance of social distancing practices” reporting form created by the county.
In response, however, The Lot said in a social media post on Saturday that it followed “all CDC, state, and local guidelines,” noting that it has “a large patio so naturally there will be more people, attention, and visibility.”
While The Lot posted a sign encouraging mask usage, Virginia’s new mask requirement only requires it for indoor public spaces.
A huge thank you to all our amazing patrons for the support and patience last night. We’d also like to thank the county…
On Sunday, Crisol posted an apology, acknowledging that Arlington police and fire personnel had visited The Lot and verified that it was following all of the requirements. She added, however, that “too many ppl = an administrative problem the County needs to fix.”
Folks, I owe @TheLotVA an apology; Police & Fire visited Friday & confirmed they're operating @ 50% capacity of cert. of occupancy + distancing tables. So too many ppl = an administrative problem the County needs to fix. And I was wrong to assume The Lot was acting as a scofflaw. https://t.co/WXTB0qtZXc
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) June 1, 2020
The risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors is considered to be low, though extended exposure and close proximity to someone with the virus — particularly if they’re talking and not wearing a mask — can result in infections even outdoors.
Photo via Twitter