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Activists Blast Nestle’s Breastfeeding Marketing Practices at Rosslyn HQ

Tina Sherman says she was stunned to wake up one morning and discover that her country suddenly wasn’t interested in promoting breastfeeding around the world.

Sherman, a North Carolina organizer with the progressive activist group “MomsRising,” was disturbed and puzzled to see the New York Times reporting that American officials pushed back on a seemingly innocuous resolution supporting breastfeeding at a gathering of the World Health Organization’s governing body.

As a mother herself, Sherman couldn’t understand why the U.S. would seek to abandon its longstanding support for breastfeeding, which research has often shown is healthier than baby formula and considerably less expensive. But as she read on, it didn’t surprise her that some advocates saw the influence of major baby formula producers at play in the dust-up.

“We know the benefits of breastfeeding, and it just seems to be in direct opposition to everything that we stood for,” Sherman told ARLnow. “We don’t know, but we can guess who was involved.”

Nestlé, in particular, has come under fire for decades now for allegedly using misleading marketing tactics in developing nations to promote baby formula, en route to becoming the market leader in infant milk products worldwide. So Sherman decided to express her outrage to the company directly, and worked with several other advocacy groups to collect more than 80,000 signatures urging Nestlé to change its ways.

The advocates, who even earned the backing of actress Alyssa Milano, delivered the petition to Nestlé’s new Rosslyn headquarters today (Tuesday) and met briefly with some company representatives to discuss the issue.

Nestlé spokesman Josh Morton says the company “welcome[s] the opportunity for meaningful engagement” on the issue, stressing that “we prioritize the health and wellbeing of babies.”

The company has long denied any wrongdoing when it comes its formula marketing, and Morton added that “Nestlé believes that breastfeeding is best for babies. Full stop.”

Though other formula companies have been more reticent to denounce the Trump administration’s actions on breastfeeding, Nestlé has worked to distance itself from the controversy, and Morton stressed that the company supports the WHO’s current stance on the practice.

Sherman says she’s certainly encouraged that the company at least says it’s willing to hear her group’s concerns. Yet Julia Skapik, a practicing physician in D.C. and a MomsRising volunteer, said she can’t help but be skeptical of company’s clear “profit motive.”

“Especially in places that are resource-poor, the idea that families are being convinced that they should take what little resources they have and put it towards formula is really frustrating and it’s sad,” Skapik said.

Morvika Jordan, another volunteer from Manassas, sees the company’s priorities misplaced, with “the idea of profit superseding the idea of health.”

But between the article in the Times and Tuesday’s demonstration, Sherman thinks executives at Nestlé, at least, “know that we’re watching.”

“If they can turn that marketing around, we’ll be right back out here cheering them, thanking them,” Sherman said. “But if they don’t, we’ll be back here to let them know what we think.”

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Morning Notes

Chess Growing in Popularity at Wakefield HS — A hot new trend with students at Wakefield High School: chess. The school offers chess boards for students and teachers to use during their lunch periods. Five or six students were regular players at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year the number of students playing on a weekly basis grew to around 200, including standout varsity athletes like Amari Cooper and Ben Horsford. [InsideNova]

Religious Protesters Picket Freddie’s — A pair of religious protesters held signs and chanted anti-gay slogans outside of Crystal City LGBTQ watering hole Freddie’s Beach Bar over the weekend. Despite their message of intolerance, owner Freddie Lutz invited the two in to have a dialogue about their beliefs and why Lutz is proud of his bar and customers. [Washington Blade]

Ballston Mall Owner to Be Sold — The Cleveland-based owner of the revamped Ballston Quarter mall is being sold to a Toronto-based management company, Brookfield Asset Management, for a reported $11.4 billion. [Washington Business Journal]

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Anti-Abortion Protest Covers Clarendon Metro Plaza

Anti-abortion protesters took over the Clarendon Metro Plaza for about two hours Thursday morning (May 10), greeting pedestrians with graphic images of aborted fetuses.

“We are raising awareness about the destruction of children in the womb and we are calling the community to support women to help and make a choice for life for their children,” said Jeanne Miller, one of the protesters.

The protest was a part of a day-long event to honor the late George Yourishin, described by the Baltimore-based organization Defend Life as a “pro-life hero.” Miller said there was no real reason for choosing Clarendon to protest besides the fact that demonstrators were planning to visit Yourishin’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery later that day, after mass at nearby St. Charles Catholic Church.

She added that most of the signs were provided by Defend Life to show what an abortion looks like. The practice of protesters displaying gruesome photos of fetuses in public places has been hotly debated in several court cases nationwide; some courts have ruled that the images are too disturbing to be shown in public, while others have defended the practice as one protected by the First Amendment.

Miller said she had a lot of positive interactions with passersby, but had one man who became very upset and shouted epithets at her.

Anti-abortion protesters have demonstrated in Arlington before, gathering outside the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in 2016 and Washington-Lee High School in 2012.

Photos by Anna Merod

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Protesters Rally Against Arlington Social Security Office Closure

Despite this afternoon’s heat, dozens of protesters crowded the sidewalk in front of Rosslyn’s Social Security Administration office to rally against its potential closure.

The office, those speaking at the megaphone argued, is a vital component of serving the area’s Social Security benefit recipients.

“If you close this office, you’re cutting a social security benefit,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “It’s just like cutting somebody’s social security check — you’re cutting the ability for them to access the services that they need.”

The activists’ argue that many people who receive benefits are either aging or disabled and need an easily accessible, local office. That portion of the population needs to be able to consult a human being face-to-face in order to maximize their benefits.

Using an internet portal, they say, was inefficient for some benefit recipients because they tend to not include sufficient or accurate information on forms, have difficulty using a computer, or don’t have the ability to access the internet.

County Board member Christian Dorsey made an appearance, arguing that there’s plenty of room for the Social Security Administration to maintain an Arlington presence.

“This pains me to say as a public official, but office space is not that expensive in Arlington right now,” said Dorsey, pledging to use county resources to find the SSA a more amenable lease. “There are plenty of opportunities for the SSA to stay.”

The Social Security Administration has an office in Alexandria, but anyone looking to get there from Arlington would have to take a trip down the Blue Line to the Van Dorn Metro station and then hop on a bus. The SSA’s website doesn’t even list that office as being nearby if users enter a Rosslyn zip code to find a location.

“To lose the ability to connect people to an office thats within a short walk of heavy rail and to put them in an office more than a mile away from the closest Metro station speaks of poor planning and speaks of insensitivity,” said Dorsey. “We want to reverse that.”

Dorsey himself only learned of the closure a few weeks ago from an Arlingtonian who works with AFGE.

“You would expect, in a world where there’s a governmental asset, that you’d at least get a heads-up when there’s a rethinking of delivering that service — but that’s not the world we live in,” Dorsey said.

About 90 people come to the office every day to use the office, according to Dorsey.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has also written a letter to the SSA’s internal watchdog requesting an investigation into the agency’s decision to close the office.

A full video of the rally has been made available by Social Security Works, an organization in favor of expanding the program.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Tops HQ2 Poll — The combined Crystal City-Potomac Yard site is the most likely D.C. area landing spot for Amazon’s second headquarters, according to an online poll conducted by the Washington Business Journal. Meanwhile, D.C., Virginia and Maryland officials are teaming up to promote the region as the HQ2 search continues. Amazon fever has even entered the world of local business conferences: an event dubbed “HQmania” is scheduled to be held in Rosslyn next month. [Washington Business Journal, WAMU, DCA Live]

Rosslyn Lands Nonprofit HQ — “It’s been a good week for Rosslyn. First came the news that Gerber, a Nestle subsidiary, would relocate its headquarters and 150 jobs from New Jersey to 1812 N. Moore St. And Friday, we learn that a D.C.-based global nonprofit has decided to cross the Potomac into Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]

ART Bus Stop Vandalized — Someone smashed two of the windows on an ART bus stop in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood late last week. [Twitter]

Arlington Man Charged With Statutory Rape — A 47-year-old Arlington man was arrested at his home last month and charged with the statutory rape of a minor in North Carolina. The man arranged meeting the minor in North Carolina via the messaging app Kik, which is popular with teens. [Fox 8]

Local Columbine Survivor Addresses Student Protesters — “Salli Garrigan was in music class when the sound of gunshots reverberated through the halls of her high school… Garrigan, now 35 and an Arlington resident, stood Friday before a crowd of D.C.-area students gathered on the U.S. Capitol lawn and told them when she was their age, she didn’t know how to make her voice heard.” [Washington Post]

Long Bridge Park Field Renovations Starting — Work is set to begin today on new turf for Long Bridge Park’s heavily-used Field No. 3. The field is expected to be closed for 45 days. [Arlington County]

Past and Present School Board Members Gather — On Thursday, the Arlington School Board held its last meeting at the Arlington Education Center building next to Washington-Lee High School. The board room and administrative offices are moving to the Syphax Education Center along Washington Blvd. To mark the last meeting, past and current School Board members members gathered for a photo. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Duluoz Me

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‘Friends of Upton Hill’ Protest Park Paving Plans With New Website

A group calling itself ‘Friends of Upton Hill’ has created a website to oppose a plan for a new ropes course and a new parking lot at Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington.

Upton Hill park hosts a water park, a mini golf course, batting cages, and walking trails. NOVA Parks — the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority — plans on adding 33,000 square feet of asphalt to the park in the form of a entrance road and parking spaces, as well as a “high adventure course” and other amenities.

The project cost is estimated at $3 million, according to a November presentation.

The park’s “friends” wrote on the site that they believe NOVA Parks has been deficient in maintaining the mostly wooded park and that “trash and invasive species are taking over the forest.”

Preferring that the park authority shift its focus from bigger parking lots to forest restoration and facilities maintenance, the group quoted Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi, writing that “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

“NOVA Parks should focus on restoring the forest, removing trash and invasives, and improving maintenance of the existing facilities — the water-park, miniature golf, batting cage, playground and picnic pavilion — to make for a more pleasant and attractive park experience,” the website says.

This past fall, however, a renewed effort to combat the invasive species was undertaken at the park, according to the Arlington Sun Gazette.

NOVA Parks representatives presented the Upton Hill plan to the Arlington County Board on Nov. 28. Paul Gilbert, the NOVA Parks executive director, asserted that the parking lot expansion would not “impact the natural resources.” He said that the ropes course, with sweeping views of Arlington, would be a marquee feature for park and for the county at large.

Gilbert noted that the existing parking lot is packed in the summer months. However, the Friends of Upton Hill website argued that the lot is nearly deserted during chillier months of the year.

“We started our group because NOVA Parks is more bent on paving over Upton Hill Park than preserving it as parkland,” wrote says the Friends of Upton Hill website. “In the Seven Corners area we need to keep and improve every existing square foot of green space rather than add yet another parking lot — particularly one that sits empty for three quarters of the year.”

NOVA Parks operates 32 parks across Northern Virginia, including three parks in the county — Upton Hill, Potomac Overlook, and the W&OD Trail.

An email sent to a listed Friends of Upton Hill email address was not immediately returned.

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Kaine, Dems to Host Gun Control ‘Planning Meeting,’ Town Hall

Sen. Tim Kaine has organized an “action planning meeting” in Arlington with gun violence advocates, victims’ families and faith leaders, the day before gun violence prevention marches are scheduled nationwide.

The event will be held at George Mason University’s Founders Hall on Friday (March 23) at 1 p.m. Per a press release, meeting attendees will “talk about the work they are doing in the community to promote safety reforms that make communities safer.”

The senator, according to the release, “is optimistic that the activism of students and parents who have spoken out all over the country has changed the dynamic of the gun violence prevention debate and could finally spur action in Congress.

Kaine’s event is scheduled a day before the national March For Our Lives anti-gun-violence rally on Saturday, March 24. Arlington Democrats are planning a weekend of events around it.

Among the events is a “Town Hall for Action on Commonsense Gun Safety Measures” held by the Arlington County Democratic Committee. It is scheduled to take place on Sunday, the day after the rally, at Faith Lutheran Church (3313 Arlington Boulevard) from 2-4 p.m.

Virginia Del. Chris Hurst (D-12) will be the keynote speaker, discussing his personal gun violence story.

The following speakers will also attend the town hall and “offer unique perspectives on the issue of gun violence and concrete action steps,” per a Facebook event listing.

  • Beth Arthur, Arlington Sheriff’s Office
  • Kris Brown, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
  • Karina de Leede, Arlington Student Activists
  • Chloe Fugel, Arlington Student Activists
  • Josh Horwitz, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  • Celia Slater, Moms Demand Action Arlington
  • Yasmine Taeb, Alumnus of Stoneman Douglas High School and current DNC member
  • Tannia Talento, Arlington School Board

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be leading Arlington Democrats in the march on Saturday, starting on the Arlington side of the Memorial Bridge at 10:30 a.m., according to a press release from state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s office.

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Students Walk Out of School to Protest Gun Violence

(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Students at Arlington’s high schools walked out of class Wednesday morning to protest gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting.

The 10 a.m. walkout was planned nationally, on the one month anniversary of the shooting, and in Arlington it was the second such protest in as many months. Washington-Lee, Yorktown, Wakefield, Langston and H-B Woodlawn were among the schools participating. Students at Kenmore Middle School also walked out, according to the school’s Twitter account.

At Washington-Lee, hundreds — if not thousands — of students gathered on the football field amid cold, blustery weather for a solemn remembrance of the slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and teachers.

A group of students sat in the bleachers, holding signs with the names and photos of the victims, while another group of students read each of their names and a bit of biographical information, one by one, about one per minute. The gathered students stood still, in silence only broken by a brief applause at the end, before returning to the school.

A couple dozen administrators and teachers watched over the event, along with a pair of Arlington County police officers, there to provide security. A few W-L graduates, parents and local residents also attended, some holding signs.

During Yorktown’s walkout, meanwhile, students wrote letters about school safety to members of Congress

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy said late last month that today’s walkout would be the last walkout in which participating students would be granted a blanket excused absence.

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Morning Notes

School Walkouts Today — Student walkouts are planned at Arlington’s high schools today, part of a national demonstration against gun violence. The walkout is happening at 10 a.m., is expected to last 17 minutes, and is being treated as an excused absence by Arlington Public Schools. Middle schoolers at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, meanwhile, have organized a 2:30 p.m. prayer service to honor the victims.

JBG Talks HQ2 in Quarterly Earnings — Property owner JBG Smith has stayed largely mum about its wooing of Amazon — until now. In its quarterly earnings report, JBG said it believes that its Crystal City properties are well-positioned to win the bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. The D.C. area’s tech prowess “combined with our blend of walkable places, in-place infrastructure and low-cost housing makes Crystal City a compelling location,” the company wrote. “Our holdings alone can accommodate Amazon’s entire long-term space requirement and we have a cost advantage over our competitors given the existing in-place parking and substantial infrastructure.” [Washington Business Journal]

Lobbyist Claims Attack at Local Hotel — Jack Burkman, a “conservative lobbyist known for his controversial positions” who in January told police he was pepper sprayed outside his house near Rosslyn, is alleging another attack. Burkman claims, in a press release, that he was “run down by a large, black SUV” last night while “working with an FBI whistleblower” at the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn. [Twitter]

Two Charged in Murder of Arlington Man — Two suspected gang members from Maryland have been charged in the fatal stabbing of an Arlington resident in Oxon Hill, Md. on Feb. 25. [Town of Morningside]

Arlington House Closing for Rehab Project — Arlington House, the iconic historic mansion at Arlington National Cemetery that was formerly home to Gen. Robert E. Lee, “is closing to the public beginning Monday, March 19, so it can undergo a monthslong rehabilitation project… part of a $12.35 million restoration plan.” [WTOP]

National PTA Meeting in Arlington — The National Parent Teacher Association is holding its annual legislative conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City this week. The conference runs from March 13-15 and kicked off yesterday with a keynote address by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. [National PTA]

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Dozens of Arlington Households Set To Host Gun Control Marchers

In just six days, about 41 Arlington households have volunteered to host gun control demonstrators later this month.

That translates to approximately 131 beds for guest marchers in Arlington.

Altogether, 350 host families volunteered in the first six days that a website aimed at connecting protesters with host families went live, or about 1,120 beds, according to Tricia Duncan, an organizer who lives in Washington but grew up in Arlington. Duncan added that that is a conservative estimate of the currently volunteer housing stock.

Thousands of marchers will descend on Washington on March 24 for the March For Our Lives gun control protest, and a group of mothers with DC Local Ambassadors knew that they’d need a place to sleep.

That’s when the women issued the call last week seeking lodging for the thousands of anticipated protesters.

Initially, the group consisted of seven DC Local Ambassadors who had the same idea: finding free lodging for kids who were coming in for the march. Now there’s 15 organizers, working to find housing for a march that has already suffered from organizational challenges.

The group reached out to their “trusted network” — church groups, civic groups, and parent-teacher associations — for lodging locations.

Both potential hosts and prospective guests have to fill out a form online to be considered. Some social media vetting is conducted, said Elizabeth Andrews, a Washington resident and organizer, but it’s for safety reasons.

The group is also requesting biographical information to try to make “thoughtful matches” that consider the backgrounds of everyone involved, like gender, race, and ethnicity.

“We are trying to think about making it the best situation possible for everyone,” said Andrews.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee, meanwhile, is planning its own events for the March 24 demonstration, including a poster-making party, a walk from the Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge to the march, and a rally at an Arlington church in support of action in Virginia

File photo.

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APS Superintendent: Only One More Excused Walkout

(Updated at 3 p.m.) With more school walkouts planned, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy is drawing the line on excused absences for student protests

Murphy sent an email to parents today, following a walkout by high school students last week to protest gun violence and gun policies. Murphy said APS will allow and grant excused absences for another national walkout planned for March 14, but will mark unexcused any student who walks out for the entire day on April 20, as apparently is being planned, without parental permission in advance.

“While we cannot condone weekly or even monthly occurrences like this, we try to encourage our students’ interest in expressing their ideas and opinions,” Murphy wrote. “Therefore, our secondary schools will support students’ participation in a brief national walkout on March 14, to allow them this one additional time to convey their feelings on school property and without greatly disrupting the school day.”

One parent noted to ARLnow.com that “some students and parents are opting to peacefully protest these walkout days by not going to school that day at all.”

The full letter from Dr. Murphy is below.

Dear APS Families,

Last week, many of our secondary students, in support of their student peers in Florida and throughout the nation, participated in a lunchtime “walkout” to peacefully protest the violence that has occurred in many schools across our nation. School staff and principals learned about these walkouts in advance and provided the students an opportunity to express their views. For the most part, each school’s walkout was very respectful and lasted about 20-30 minutes.

As you may have read or heard, students are calling for a similar, 17-minute national school walkout on Wed, March 14 at 10 a.m., which will mark the one-month anniversary of the tragic shootings that took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. As educators, part of our role is to help teach our students how to actively engage in civic conversations and the importance of being engaged in our democratic process.  This happens in many ways – by voting; by writing to or speaking with elected leaders; by joining organizations that hold and advocate for similar ideas or beliefs; and, at times, by participating in peaceful and respectful demonstrations.

While we cannot condone weekly or even monthly occurrences like this, we try to encourage our students’ interest in expressing their ideas and opinions. We have also observed that this response does not reflect any one group’s opinion – its focus has been nonpartisan among students. Therefore, our secondary schools will support students’ participation in a brief national walkout on March 14, to allow them this one additional time to convey their feelings on school property and without greatly disrupting the school day. Students who participate will not be penalized for taking part in their school’s brief demonstration, and we will work to ensure that any students who are not interested in participating will not be pressured to do so.

The event will also allow students to honor the 17 lives lost in Florida as well as the other children and school staff who have been senselessly lost through similar events at other schools. This decision is in keeping with the moment of silence and other commemorations that all APS schools participated in and our community observed immediately after the events of September 11.

We believe that March 14 will present a minimal interruption to our instructional day; however, we also have heard that students are being encouraged to participate in another walkout on April 20 in the morning which includes not returning to school for the remainder of the day. In that case, students would be marked with an unexcused absence unless parents provide written permission in advance of the 20th. We believe that the event in D.C. on Saturday, March 24, will provide ample opportunity for students to participate in a Walk and to exercise their beliefs about gun control without interfering with their responsibility to school and their classroom work.

Finally, some of our families have asked about the involvement of our elementary schools. Elementary principals and teachers will find ways to be responsive to students that are age-appropriate and suitable for their interest in the topic.

If you have questions, I encourage you to speak with your school’s principal.

Sincerely,

Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.
​​​​​​​Superintendent

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Students Stage Walkouts At Arlington High Schools

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Arlington high school students walked out of class Wednesday at about noon, joining nationwide protesters responding to a recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Wakefield High School students made their way to the athletic stadium for a rally in favor of stricter gun control laws during a 30 minute class walkout. Administrators agreed to consider the walkout an excused absence, according to several Wakefield students.

Students spoke to the crowd with a public address system, calling themselves “moving targets” and shouting that gun violence won’t be resolved until everyone helps them “rise together and create that change.”

(Other Arlington students, including those at H-B Woodlawn and Yorktown High School, also staged walkouts today, as did students in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the region.)

Hannah Jones, a 17-year-old junior at Wakefield and an Arlington Young Democrats member, referenced tweets from an account called National School Walkout as her and her peers’ inspiration for the walkout.

Another student, 16-year-old sophomore Natasa Volk, only recently has become involved in politics.

“I think my mom wanted me to swivel in my own ideas and figure out what my values are,” said Volk. “But definitely this year I have engaged a lot more in political conversations, whether its with teachers or with my mother and other students.”

“I guess I started to care, which is kind of disappointing that I didn’t care as much.”

Volk and other students drew protest posters in their morning classes, with slogans like “317 Last Year — How Many This Year?” The walkout crowd was a few hundred teenagers and adults, a portion of the school’s 2016 enrollment rate of around 2,000 students.

Student protests are being staged as widespread as Chicago and Florida in response to the Parkland shooting, but Volk says that it wasn’t just the most recent shooting that inspired action, but that she learned last year that mass shootings happen much more frequently than one might see reported in the national media.

Some students were pessimistic about the protest, reportedly believing that it would just be an excuse for the apathetic to skip class. But, Jones believes, even those students will benefit from the walkout.

“Even if that’s their motive, being around this many people and to see this many people caring” about gun control legislation, said Jones. “I feel that if the news that they’re hearing hasn’t affected them, then this will get them to change their minds and get them to be a bit more directly involved.”

Reporters from ARLnow and WJLA (ABC 7) were not permitted to follow students to the rally at Wakefield High School.

Students, parents, and administrators alike took to Twitter in support of the march — including Virginia’s 2018 teacher of the year, Michelle Cottrell-Williams.

Further protests have been called for by student and adult activists nationwide, and a nationwide “March For Our Lives” protest has been scheduled for March 24.

Tweets from the Wakefield walkout, along with emails sent to H-B Woodlawn and Yorktown parents, after the jump.

From H-B Woodlawn Principal Casey Robinson:

Dear H-B Woodlawn Parent or Guardian:

Today at noon many H-B Woodlawn students participated in a student walkout to protest gun violence following the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  This walkout occurred during lunch; students congregated in the front circle for about 20 minutes. These students were supervised by school staff and the School Resource Officer. It was a peaceful and safe gathering. During this student initiated protest some students suggested that the group should walk to the White House. We told students that they must have parent permission and sign out in the office since this was not a school-sponsored activity, and school staff would not be with them.

Most students walked a short distance and then returned to school. Other students participated in the longer protest. We were not aware of plans for this protest, but we know that other walkouts and protests are being planned for March and April.  We will continue to support students by providing them a safe space to exercise their constitutional rights, while also respecting the right of all students to continue with their education during these activities.

From Yorktown Principal Bridget Loft.

Dear Yorktown Parent or Guardian,

Today at noon many Yorktown students engaged in a student walkout to raise awareness of gun violence following the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.   During this walkout, many students left their fifth period classes or lunch to congregate primarily in the amphitheater at the front the building for approximately 20 minutes.   These students were supervised by school staff and all gathered peacefully, respectfully, and safely before returning to class.  Students who were out of class during this time and returned to class with their classmates will be marked as ‘excused absent’.

Like all of us, many students at Yorktown have been trying to make sense of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas last week and have been concerned about their safety in our school.  As a school staff, we are committed to ensuring that our students know that their safety is our top priority and to giving them a space to talk about and process the events of last week.

Today’s walkout at Yorktown was planned and organized by several students here.  When we learned that it was being planned, school staff made arrangements for the students to congregate in the amphitheater as they had direct access to it as they left through the front doors and it made it easier for Yorktown staff to provide supervision and to monitor who was entering and exiting the building.

I was exceptionally proud of our students today.  Those who participated did so respectfully and peacefully.  Those who chose to participate respected the feelings of those who opted not to, and those who opted to not participate supported their classmates who did.  With the walkouts and protests that are being planned for March and April, we will continue to support students by providing them a safe space to exercise their constitutional rights.

Via Twitter:

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Arlington Democrats Join Thousands in Women’s March on Washington

About 250 people gathered at the entrance of the Arlington Memorial Bridge on Saturday to join the second Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee organized with grassroots organizations for the second year to gather locals to march across Memorial Bridge to a rally at the Lincoln Memorial. There, speakers talked of the importance of the rights of women, people with disabilities, immigrants and people of color.

Jill Caiazzo, the new Arlington Democrats chair after succeeding Kip Malinosky, said the point of this year’s march was to not only highlight women’s position in society, but to also encourage people to vote. The march’s theme this year was “Power to the Polls.”

“I think it’s important just as a general matter all year long that we remind people of the very critical midterm election and the fact that we all need to do our part so that everyone knows about it, everybody’s registered to vote and everybody is able to vote and does vote on election day who is eligible,” Caiazzo said.

Some of the speakers at the three-hour rally included Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.),  Virginia Del. Kelly Fowler (D-21), U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The speakers called for the need to elect more women and criticized the Republicans in Congress over the government shutdown that same weekend.

This year Arlington Democrats will be doing its part to march to the polls through its three new voter outreach coordinators, who will be setting up activities with marginalized groups in the community who do not necessarily interact with politicians on a regular basis.

“I think you will be seeing more events focused on just being in the community and voter education as opposed to just focusing on knocking on doors and get the vote out,” Caiazzo said. “That’s going to be very important but we also want to emphasize too that we are in the community as a positive force.”

Wendy Reed, a resident of the Madison Manor neighborhood, came to protest because of her concerns over immigration, environmental protection and the treatment of women.

“I feel like we’re upside down,” Reed said. “I feel like all the things I care about are being hacked away.”

Another protester, Lynn Borton of Courthouse, said she returned to the Women’s March because it felt good to be a part of something that’s unifying in a time when society has felt more divisive. Borton also said she is thinking of her great, great grandmother, who never had the right to vote.

Several parents brought their daughters to march with them as well, including Eric Sword, who brought his two daughters, Lyra and Cat. They also went to the march last year.

Lyra Sword said she came back to the march “because it was fun last year and it felt good to be surrounded by people who believe the same thing.”

Eric Sword added that President Donald Trump’s administration hits home because his family is close with someone that is transgender. It was reported recently that the Trump administration plans to protect health workers who deny treating transgender people or handling abortions on religious grounds.

Kay Bailey also brought her two daughters Elisa and Amanda Boiani to make sure they see that women don’t have to endure the treatment of Trump’s policies against them and minorities.

“I want to teach my daughters that everyone is equal and everyone is worthy of human rights and we can’t behave like this and expect the rest of the world to uphold human rights,” Bailey said.

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Morning Notes

County Board Approves Affordable Housing Loan — At its meeting last night, the Arlington County Board approved a loan that will help preserve the 294-unit Park Shirlington Apartments as affordable housing. The $6 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund will allow a pair of developers to buy the complex, rehabilitate it and preserve as much affordable housing as possible. [Arlington County]

Ten Die in Va. Thanksgiving Weekend Crashes — “With overall traffic fatalities already on the increase, the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday weekend proved to be a deadly one… on Virginia’s highways. During the holiday… traffic crashes claimed the lives of eight drivers, one passenger and a pedestrian.” [Virginia State Police]

Video Shows Helicopter Search of Crane — A video, posted by a Pentagon City resident, shows the Fairfax County Police helicopter using its spotlight to search a construction crane Sunday night, as part of a death investigation that was still ongoing as of Monday evening. [YouTube]

FCC Chair Reports Harassing Signs —  FCC chairman and Arlington resident Ajit Pai is again being targeted at his home by activists who oppose changes to net neutrality and media ownership rules. This time, signs outside Pai’s home have reportedly referenced his children. The Arlington County Republican Committee called the alleged harassment “disgusting.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Education Tech Company Sets Up Clarendon Studios — “Higher education is getting the star treatment… in Clarendon. Headquartered in Lanham, Maryland, [education technology firm] 2U recently revamped the former Henninger Media space off Wilson Boulevard to create a satellite office with eight TV studios, where visiting professors can spend a whirlwind three to four days taping lectures and other multimedia course materials designed to supplement live classroom chats and streaming video.” [Arlington Magazine]

Flickr pool photo by Chris Guyton

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Protestors Call on Harris Teeter to Improve Access to Emergency Contraception

More than a dozen people protested outside Harris Teeter in Ballston this morning (Monday), urging the grocery store to make it easier to access a form of emergency contraception.

Protestors gathered near the store at 600 N. Glebe Road just after 10 a.m. holding signs and chanting, urging the grocery store to put Plan B One Step on its shelves. Currently, customers must pick up a card on the shelf for Plan B and take it to either a pharmacist or store manager to redeem it.

Plan B is a time-sensitive medication to prevent unintended pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but the sooner it can be taken, the more effective it is.

The protest was organized by Reproaction, a direct action group formed two years ago to help increase access to abortion and reproductive justice: the right to parent, the right not to parent and the right to raise children in safe and healthy communities.

“For over four years, the FDA has authorized emergency contraception to be sold on the shelf to anyone regardless of age or gender,” Erin Matson, co-director of Reproaction, said. “You pick it up off the shelf the way you do Tylenol. What Harris Teeter does is asinine.”

For others protesting, it was a chance to stand up for the rights of immigrants and the LGBTQ community, who are able to access such contraception easier than other types requiring identification.

“Plan B is something we have fought for so we don’t have any barriers for it,” Alejandra Pablos of the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network said. “It’s very important when you think about all the immigrant people, the trans people from the LGBTQ community having Plan B accessible to you without ID, without that barrier is super important.”

And Shireen Shakouri, another protestor, said she came to protest after some difficult experiences in the grocery store.

“When I was younger, trawling through the aisle that had sexual health products, I was often followed,” she said. “I don’t need that policing now, I didn’t need it then and I’m here to speak out against it.

Matson said Monday’s action is part of a wider push against the grocery store’s policy, timed to coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We’re kicking off our campaign to make HT put emergency contraception on the shelf where it belongs at the beginning of the holiday season on purpose,” she said. “This is a time when shoppers are busy and coming over here, and we wanted to make sure we got the word out and make this change happen.”

For its part, Harris Teeter said in a statement posted on news website Rewire last year that the product must be sold by a pharmacy associate or store manager, as they are certified under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

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