(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A local park with a popular playground keeps getting vandalized, this time with obscene language and drawings.
As of this article’s publication Rocky Run Park, along N. Barton Street in the Courthouse area, has graffiti featuring anti-police slogans and crude drawings of male genitalia. It’s been there, near the soccer field, since at least Friday.
(A not-safe-for-work video gives an uncensored look at the graffiti.)
The graffiti follows other reports of vandalism over the past few months, and an incident on Tuesday in which a dispute between two teenagers led one to draw a gun and make threats. It turned out to be a BB gun, police determined after taking the teen into custody.
“At approximately 5:32 p.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the report of a person with a gun,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “The investigation revealed that the juvenile victim and the juvenile subject had been involved in an ongoing dispute when the subject allegedly brandished a BB gun from his bag and made threats to the victim. The subject was located in the area and released to his guardian. The investigation is ongoing.”
Between the BB gun incident and the graffiti, neighbors are unnerved.
“There has been an increase in graffiti and vandalism at Rocky Run Park over the past several months,” the Clarendon Courthouse Civic Association said in a statement to ARLnow this morning. “The field was vandalized over the summer, and this past week, someone added a lot of crude graffiti throughout the park.”
“This is a family park and parents should let their kids know this is not the place for graffiti or vandalism,” the statement continued. “There was also a fight between two teenagers on Sept. 23 and one brandished a BB gun, which looked like a firearm. It will be helpful if the County/ACPD act with an awareness campaign to prevent these issues from happening in the future.”
An ACPD cruiser was parked outside the park this afternoon.
An Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman said the park has been vandalized multiple times over the past couple of weeks. The most recent graffiti could not be removed using standard methods, meaning the concrete seating area that was vandalized will need to be repainted.
“About a week and a half ago we were notified of the presence of graffiti by a member of the public and removed it,” said DPR spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “That same day the park was vandalized with graffiti two more times. Unfortunately, a few days later there was even more graffiti only this time the paint used is particularly difficult to remove and required that three staff using a powerwasher, graffiti remover and hand brushes remove it. However, it was to no avail and so today we scheduled a team to repaint it.”
“Every time our goal is to first notify the police and then remove [the graffiti] within 24-48 hours as best as we are able,” Kalish said. “There are times when we realize that our regular removal methods are not going to be sufficient and have to schedule a time to perform additional work including repainting the area, which is what happened in this particular case.”
Kalish said police and Arlington park rangers typically increase patrols around a park — “targeted around when the activity may occur” — in response to vandalism incidents.
An Arlington County employee discovered “KKK” scrawled on a pillar in the parking garage below the county government’s Courthouse headquarters last week.
The employee, who is Black, found the message in the garage for the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd) and reported the incident on Thursday morning to County Board members, County Manager Mark Schwartz, Chief Race and Equity Officer Samia Byrd and the Arlington branch of the NAACP, according to the local NAACP. The employee filed a police report yesterday (Monday).
The Arlington NAACP shared an excerpt from the email chain between the employee and the county that it said encapsulates how the incident harms more than just the individual who found it.
“It seems because I reported it, and because I happen to be Black, I am seen as a single victim,” the employee wrote to the county in an email, according to the NAACP. “I do not see myself in this way.”
In a statement to ARLnow, County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti condemned the message.
“It’s unfortunate and unacceptable to see racist graffiti anywhere in our community, let alone in our own parking garage,” de Ferranti said. “This garage is open to the public at all times and frequented by those using the businesses throughout the Courthouse neighborhood.”
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services and property owner JBG Smith took steps to remove the writing from the pillar, he said.
“Our thanks go to the individual who reported it to us,” he added. “ACPD is also investigating, and we will have a more extensive response regarding the steps we have, are, and will be taking over the coming days.”
In a statement, the Arlington branch of the NAACP took a stronger stance, saying any county employee who parked in that garage was “victimized” by the message and emphasizing that this incident is not “graffiti.”
“Speech expressing hatred of a particular group of people is defined as ‘hate speech’ and is not ‘graffiti,'” the organization said. “The Arlington Branch NAACP condemns any form of hate speech and stands with the Black employees and any employee or citizen who reports hate speech.”
The NAACP asked county leadership to send a message to the county workforce that hate speech will not be tolerated anywhere.
“However, sadly, the County missed the opportunities to get in front of this and, as of Monday evening, four days later, still had not addressed these concerns with its employees,” it said.
Hateful messages have popped up elsewhere in Arlington in recent years.
“It’s OK to be white” was sprayed over a church’s racial justice sign last summer. “Heil Trump,” “KKK” and two swastikas were found on a dumpster two years ago — the same year racial and gender slurs were found on a building that serves people with developmental delays.
The full statement from the NAACP is below.
The latest sign defacement happened outside of St. George’s Episcopal Church, at 915 N. Oakland Street in Virginia Square. Someone spray painted over a sign with a Bible verse and the words “Black Lives Matter.”
Arlington County Police say it happened around lunchtime Monay.
“At approximately 1:07 p.m. on August 10, police were dispatched to the report of graffiti which had occurred approximately 20 minutes prior,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.
“Upon arrival, it was determined that an unknown suspect spray painted over the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a sign,” Savage continued. “The suspect is described as an Asian male, between 50-65 years of age. He was wearing a red hat, glasses, plaid shirt, blue jean shorts and used a power wheelchair. The investigation is ongoing.”
On a local Facebook group, the church’s music minister said the vandalism was caught on video.
“We have video of this happening and the police have it,” he said. “Most importantly, we have extra signs. Please pray that love will rule our hearts. God bless you all.”
Another post, from this morning, says that the sign was vandalized again — someone put a sticker with the words “hate crimes are funny” over the word “Black.”
Since the George Floyd protests started, a Black Lives Matter sign was vandalized at Rock Spring Congregational church and a racial justice sign was vandalized outside of Clarendon United Methodist Church.
(Updated at 11:45 p.m.) More than 500 people have signed a petition calling for the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 to be renamed “Black Lives Matter Bridge.”
The petition was created amid dueling efforts to place and remove the letters “BLM” on the bridge’s chain link fence, a thus far nonviolent dispute that has resulted in multiple calls to Arlington County police.
Two weeks ago, the red cups used to form the letters were removed, promping locals to replace them with new cups and to write new chalk slogans. Among them: “no justice, no peace” and “take it down and we’ll do it again.”
Melissa Schwaber, who sent photos of the cups being replaced, described those doing so as “Fairlington moms and their kids.”
The cups were later removed again, which led to Black Lives Matters supporters creating a heart and spelling out BLM with harder-to-remove ribbons. That won Twitter praise from Arlington County Board Chair and Fairlington resident Libby Garvey. The next day, however, someone spray-painted “TRUMP 2020” under the letters.
— GTO (@GtoGtoreo77) June 27, 2020
The spray paint was in turn sprayed over later that morning, and “BLACK LIVES MATTER” written in chalk over it. Then, more spray paint appeared.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, July 1, a local resident posted photos of an older man and a younger man — wearing a motorcycle helmet and a Liberty University shirt — who she accused of vandalizing the bridge and the lettering.
On Friday, a tipster said the “BLM vs. MAGA battle” was continuing to escalate.
“Now there are people putting up conspiracy theory banners on the bridge and people camped out on the bridge with large dogs,” the tipster said. The banners included a photo of Hillary Clinton under the words “WANTED 4 Crimes Against Humanity.”
— telefrank (@telefrank) July 3, 2020
Later that day, there were more skirmishes.
“I was driving on the Fairlington Bridge an hour or so ago and saw a man arguing with several white women near the BLM signs,” said another tipster. “He was waving his arms in one woman’s face. About 15 minutes ago, on my way home, I saw that the Arlington PD (about 3 cars) had detained the man at the gas station in Shirlington.”
An Arlington County police spokeswoman tells ARLnow that officers have responded to the bridge several times.
“ACPD has responded to multiple reports of disputes in the area of the S. Abingdon Street bridge regarding the posting and removal of signage,” said Kirby Clark. She said that “no charges have been filed related to any incidents involving the signs,” but one incident is under investigation.
“Virginia is for lovers. No KKK.”
The owner of the shed on 19th Road N. had no intention of being at the center of a civil rights message, but the back of his property expresses a message of tolerance to anyone riding the Metro through the East Falls Church station or taking the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.
The sign says Virginia is for Lovers — a slogan for the state — with “KKK” surrounded by a big red “no” sign.
The sign has been noted a number of times on Twitter since 2018, with tweets mainly expressing support for the message. But the owner of the shed said he didn’t put the sign up and has no idea who did or when.
“The first I heard about it was when one of my neighbors said ‘have you seen the back of your shed?'” said the man, who was wearing a National Rife Association t-shirt when a reporter stopped by to ask about the message on Monday.
One of my favorite sights on the way home from Dulles: the building near the East Falls Church Metro on which somebody spraypainted "Virginia Is For Lovers," followed by a crossed-out "KKK." pic.twitter.com/OPwUj873gl
— Rob Pegoraro (@robpegoraro) November 9, 2018
The view on my drive to work is, shall we say, pretty uninspired except today I saw ‘Virginia is for lovers – No KKK’ graffiti’d beautifully in huge letters on the side of a random suburban garage, so that ruled
— Laura (@llauracm_) October 17, 2018
The back wall of the shed is accessible from the trail but difficult to reach from the ground.
“I’ll say this, whoever put it up was talented,” the man said. “It’s up in the air, so they needed a ladder to get up there. And the spacing between the letters… it’s nicely done.”
But while the man (who did not want to give his name) was not opposed to the message, he was a little concerned about courting controversy or retaliation — particularly with white nationalist activity cropping up throughout the area. He said he was worried someone could come along and burn the building down.
Those who want to see the artwork should come sooner rather than later though, as the owner said he plans to place vinyl siding around the shed a some point in the near future, thus covering up the message in the process.
A county facility that serves people with developmental disabilities was spray painted with “an array of racial and gender slurs” earlier this week.
Staff members at the Woodmont Community Integration Center on the 2400 block of N. Fillmore Street discovered the hateful graffiti all over the building and a vehicle early Tuesday morning. Police were called and are still investigating the incident, an ACPD spokeswoman said.
“When staff arrived for work on Tuesday morning, they found an array of derogatory words written across the outside walls and windows of the CIC,” a tipster tells ARLnow. “Similar words were also written adjacent to the main entrance of the YMCA (on the upper level), on several disabled parking signs, and a van.”
The graffiti has since been removed by county crews, but the center closed early on Tuesday due to the nature of the words, which were described by a county official as “derogatory” and “hateful.”
“We will be exploring additional measures to increase safety at the site, and the Arlington Police will continue heightened surveillance of the entire area,” wrote Arlington Dept. of Human Services Director Anita Friedman, in a letter sent to “families and friends of the Community Integration Center.”
The full letter is below.
Family and Friends of the CIC — Upon arriving for work on Tuesday morning, August 5th, staff noticed the walls and glass windows adjacent to the entrance of the CIC covered with an array of racial and gender slurs, as well as derogatory words targeting people with developmental and other disabilities. Similar words were also written on the entrance to the YMCA (upper level of the building), signs for disabled parking, and the MVLE van, which was parked in the main parking lot and used for the Arlington cleaning enclave.
The staff immediately contacted the Arlington County Police, which responded to the scene right away. This matter remains under investigation by the Arlington Police.
The Arlington Departments of Environmental Services and Parks and Recreation also responded to the CIC to begin the process of removing the hateful words from the glass windows and walls. Cleaning the glass windows was relatively easy; however, removing the words from the brick walls has been more difficult. We are hopeful to have zero physical evidence of the words by the end of the week, though it will take much longer for the hurt caused by such words to heal.
ServiceSource, in consultation with DHS staff, made the decision to close the program on August 5th to allow time for clean-up and to process the emotional impact on staff, which will be ongoing. We also wanted to minimize the exposure of such hatred to our participants of this program.
DHS staff trained in trauma and crisis management were at the CIC to support the ServiceSource staff and process this event. Lastly, the County Manager and Arlington County Board have been made aware of this matter.
I personally condemn this kind of hatred. It has no place in our community and will not be tolerated by our leadership. Our staff here at DHS are working closely with ServiceSource to ensure the continued safety of all CIC participants and staff. We will be exploring additional measures to increase safety at the site, and the Arlington Police will continue heightened surveillance of the entire area.
Thank you for continuing to entrust your son or daughter to our care along with Service Source as our partner. Please feel free to reach out to La Voyce Reid, Bureau Chief, Developmental Disability Services, with any questions or concerns you may have.
Ashley Hopko and Vernon Miles contributed to this report.
The vehicles were all parked along the 900 and 1000 blocks of N. Madison Street, a couple of blocks away from McKinley Elementary School.
Only loose change was reported to have been stolen, though one of the vehicles — a truck — was also spray painted. Police described the spray paint as “alleged gang graffiti;” multiple tipsters tell ARLnow it was “MS-13” gang graffiti, though that could not be officially confirmed.
More from Arlington County Police Department crime reports:
Destruction of Property, 2019-06160101, 1000 block of N. Madison Street. At approximately 9:21 a.m. on June 16, police were dispatched to the report of a destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim’s truck had been vandalized by spray paint and change had been taken from within the vehicle. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.
Larceny from Auto, 2019-06174001, 1000 block of N. Madison Street. Between 2:00 a.m. – 4:00 a.m. on June 15, an unknown suspect entered a vehicle and stole loose change.
Larceny from Auto, 2019-06174010, 900 block of N. Madison Street. Between 11:00 p.m. on June 15 and 9:30 a.m. on June 16, the owner left their car open and an unknown suspect rummaged through it. Nothing was reported stolen.
Vehicle Tampering, 2019-06174013, 900 block of N. Madison Street. Between 11:35 p.m. on June 15 and 9:35 a.m. on June 16, two vehicles were rummaged through. Nothing was reported stolen.
“It appears most vehicles were left unlocked,” noted ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage, who offered some theft prevention tips. “Residents are reminded to keep their vehicles locked, remove valuables and report suspicious activity such as individuals attempting door handles by calling the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.”
Though his art can be spotted across the globe, artist Mas Paz calls Arlington home.
Mas Paz, whose real name is Federico Frum, describes his work as indigenous contemporary art, using graffiti and standard bucket paint as his media.
“I started kind of playing with this indigenous typography kind of style, which wasn’t graffiti letters but more like line work letters,” Frum said of his early graffiti tagging days during a trip to Brazil. “[It] kind of looked like maybe Mayan hieroglyphic lines with actually letters. So that was really fun.”
His work has been featured at the Smithsonian Institution, the Corcoran Gallery Art, and New York City’s The New Museum, but his murals can be found as far away as Pakistan and Mexico and as closeby as Crystal City. Frum has traveled the world to teach mural workshops, and in February he was invited by the American embassy in El Salvador to teach children how to paint street murals.
Born in Bogota, Colombia, Frum — whose pseudonym means “more peace” in Spanish — was adopted when he was a year old and raised in Arlington. He graduated from George Mason University with a degree in art and visual technology in 2005.
Frum moved to Brooklyn a year after graduating, living there for seven years while selling t-shirts on the street in between 3D modeling and screen printing. He then traveled through South America before returning to Arlington ready to come home. He now works out of his house in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood.
“I was really hungry to do a lot of projects here in D.C.,” Frum said. “I’m so happy I’m back here and it’s so cool I can keep it rooted so that where I come from I represent, but also go to places, other countries, or go to other cities and do a lot of work.”
Mas Paz initially started as just Paz, his New York graffiti tag. That was before his friend Youth Waste approached him to create his own stickers, and Paz didn’t fit neatly on the square template that they wanted. That’s when Frum decided to send more of a message, adding the mas to paz. Frum also wanted a message so in 2012 when he added Mas Paz, which translates to more peace in English, he had found the right fit and meaning.
Indigenous art has become a way for Frum to express and explore who he is, even though there are pieces of him he will never truly know, such as where exactly he was born. Five percent of all his project earnings go toward the orphanage that he lived in as a child, La Casa de La Madre y El Nino.
There are no days off for Frum, but he says that it never feels like he’s working when he’s making art. The work makes the days fly by, and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I intend to be 90 years old and still creating,” he said.
Abingdon Closed Due to Asbestos Issue — Abingdon Elementary, which is undergoing an expansion and renovation project, is closed today due to an asbestos incident on Tuesday. “This afternoon an error was made by one of the subcontractors working on the Abingdon Elementary School project who did not appropriately handle the removal of asbestos,” parents were told in an email yesterday. “As a result, since it was close to dismissal time APS Facilities staff immediately contacted the school to have all students and staff shelter in place in their classrooms to limit movement throughout the school for the remainder of the day.” APS will conduct testing to determine whether the school can reopen Thursday.
Graffiti PSA From ACPD — Arlington County Police is reminding the public that graffiti on either public or private property should be reported to the police non-emergency line, at 703-558-2222. “Graffiti is not a new problem in Arlington but something ACPD needs your help with,” the department said. ACPD’s Gang Unit reviews all graffiti reports. [Arlington County]
Man Charged With Secretly Filming Sexual Encounter — A former Oregon congressional candidate has been charged in Arlington with secretly recording a video of himself having sex with a 22-year-old woman in his apartment. Jim Feldkamp, 53, most recently worked as an adjunct professor at George Mason University, and the woman was a student there, according to news reports. [Register-Guard, KVAL]
Metro Workers Meet at Arlington Church — A group of Metro workers met last night in an Arlington church to discuss planned budget cuts and service reductions. Said one former bus operator: “Virginia should be outraged. This is going to cause of catastrophe. All of these cuts in Virginia, it’s already gridlock.” [WJLA]
Favola Gets in Knife Fight in Richmond — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) is speaking out against a bill that would make it legal for family members to give several types of knives — a switchblade, Bowie knife and a dirk — to children. Currently, family members can give kids guns but not those types of knives. “This is just bad public policy,” Favola said of the bill, which narrowly passed. “Why would you want to put our children at risk?” [Washington Post]
Someone spray painted “heil Trump,” “KKK” and two poorly drawn swastikas on a dumpster in north Arlington over the weekend, but neighbors quickly painted over the graffiti and turned it into symbols of love and peace.
Neighbors first spotted the graffiti on a dumpster in front of a house under renovation on the 5300 block of Little Falls Road Sunday morning, a couple of blocks from Yorktown High School.
“It’s very shocking,” said Daphne Lathouras, who lives near where the vandals struck. “That’s the gut reaction that one has when this kind of thing happens.”
Lathouras said the owners of the property are currently not residing in the home but posted about the hateful graffiti on Facebook.
“There seems to be a boys-will-be-boys kind of consensus among people about this, which is very alarming,” Lathouras added. “But boys should behave better. “
Neighbors used orange paint to paint over the messages Sunday afternoon, according to Lathouras. Late last night, someone once again tagged the dumpster with spray paint — this time, though, with hearts, a peace symbol and the word “love.”
On the Yorktown Civic Association Facebook page, neighbors debated whether the intent of the original graffiti was hate — or a youthful prank.
“Some kids from Yorktown HS or Williamsburg MS trying to get a rise out of you,” said one resident. “Chill! Don’t give the kids the satisfaction they are looking for.”
“I’m sorry, but hate speech is never ever ever something to ‘chill’ about,” responded another, “No matter the origin or presumed intent.”
Lathouras said on Facebook that she was told by police, “this is happening all over Arlington” and “it’s anti-Trump kids trying to get a rise out of people.” Arlington County Police, meanwhile, released the following crime report about the incident.
GRAFFITI, 2017-01080091, 5300 block of Little Falls Road. At approximately 11:43 a.m. on January 8, police were dispatched to the report of graffiti. Upon arrival, officers located a rented construction dumpster with ‘KKK,’ ‘Heil Trump’ and a swastika spray painted on it. There are no suspect(s) descriptions and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department at 703-558-2222. Tips can also be reported anonymously to Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.
Arlington County Police are trying to figure out who is responsible for a series of racist and homophobic graffiti along the Bluemont Junction Trail and around the Boulevard Manor neighborhood.
The graffiti was first spotted last night along the trail, with the N-word and the F-word spray-painted on the trail and other graffiti on rocks and on a trampoline at a nearby property, according to scanner traffic. It was reported that a group of teenagers was responsible for the graffiti, but police were unable to locate the group at the time.
This morning, more graffiti was found around the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, immediately west of the trail.
“At approximately 5:30 a.m., an unknown suspect(s) vandalized numerous items in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood of Arlington,” wrote Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The vandalism included destruction of property and graffiti.”
“This series is similar to the vandalism on the Bluemont trail yesterday and detectives are investigating whether or not these are linked,” Savage told ARLnow.com. “The graffiti included various derogatory terms to include swastikas, N-word and homosexual slangs. This is an ongoing and active investigation and will include determining if this could be a hate crime.”
The vandalism was widespread around the neighborhood, including properties on the following streets, according to police.
- 6000 block of 4th Street N.
- 100 block N. Nottingham Street
- Unit block of N. Montague Street (at Washington Blvd)
- 500 block of N. Montague Street
- 400 block N. Lombardy
- 200 block of N. Nottingham Street
- 500 block of N. Lombardy Street
Along the Bluemont trail, neighbors said the vandals damaged the trail and some neighborhood landmarks.
“I’ve lived here for 40-something years and when I saw the blue on the rocks down here, these rocks have been there forever,” said Debbie Cowell. “If I saw somebody doing it, I definitely would have said something.”
“I have no idea who did it, my guess is kids,” said William Pearson. “A couple years ago this wouldn’t have happened. I think because of the influx of families, my guess it that it’s teenagers being teenagers.”
Additional reporting and photos by Adrian Cruz and Jackie Friedman.