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(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) A group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators are protesting outside of the offices of prominent military contractors in Crystal City this morning.

The protest started in front of the Boeing corporate headquarters at 929 Long Bridge Drive and then marched to the Lockheed Martin building at 2121 Crystal Drive.

“Stand with Palestinian resistance!” says a sign held by the protesters, as seen on a video posted to social media. “End all funding of Israeli apartheid.”

A large police presence is on scene, observing the protest. The Arlington County Fire Department has also dispatched a sizable medical and bomb squad response to standby near the Lockheed Martin building, with the protest expected to grow, according to scanner traffic.

As of 9:45 a.m., part of Crystal Drive was closed to traffic. As of 10:30 a.m., the protesters were reportedly getting ready to march back to the Boeing office, prompting fire department resources to start leaving the scene.

Similar but smaller protests took place this past fall. Another pro-Palestinian protest remains camped out in front of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s house in Arlington.

The latest protests come as Israel weighs a response to a largely failed Iranian missile and drone barrage over the weekend, amid the war with Hamas that has devastated much of the Gaza Strip.

 

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Pro-Palestinian protests in D.C. caused major morning rush hour backups on Arlington roads.

Demonstrators blocked several major commuter routes and intersections in the District, including I-395 and Constitution Avenue, bringing inbound traffic to a standstill on the GW Parkway, I-66, Route 50 and I-395. The Virginia Dept. of Transportation diverted drivers from I-66 onto Route 110 and advised others to seek alternate routes.

Some side streets — including in the Courthouse and Rosslyn areas — were also congested as drivers try to avoid the highway backups.

Constitution Ave has reopened in both directions, according to WTOP, which some observers link to arrests made by Metropolitan Police Department. I-395 also recently reopened.

Arlington has seen a handful of pro-Palestine demonstrations since the start of the Israel-Hamas war last October. Most recently, demonstrators camped outside Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s house in Arlington, near the McLean border.

 

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A loud, sizable pro-Palestinian protest has taken up residence outside of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s house.

Protesters are lining Chain Bridge Road in Arlington, near the McLean border, in front of the house. They’re holding signs with messages like “Full Ceasefire in Gaza Now” and chanting slogans, including calling Blinken a “war criminal.” They’ve also erected several tents.

This protest started last night, after at least two other short-lived protests in front of the house in recent weeks. Police from Arlington and Fairfax County responded to assist the Diplomatic Security Service with security and roadway safety.

As of midday Saturday, a number of Arlington police cruisers and Arlington County vehicles were on scene, along with two electronic signboards, advising drivers to slow down and stay alert.

It’s unclear how long the protest will last.

Blinken’s neighbors across the street, who have views of the Potomac River, live in some of the priciest real estate in the D.C. area. Just down the road, meanwhile, are a number of high-security properties owned by the Saudi Arabian government.

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Pro-Palestinian protest in Rosslyn

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) A group of about 15 protesters are waving Palestinian flags and holding signs in Rosslyn.

The late afternoon protest is taking place at the busy intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Lynn Street, in front of the Raytheon headquarters at 1100 Wilson Blvd.

A similar protest was held in the same location last month, by demonstrators who also protested in front of the Lockheed Martin building in Crystal City.

This past weekend, a larger pro-Palestinian protest was held in Pentagon City, moving from the area around the Pentagon City mall to the Boeing headquarters several blocks away.

A police dispatch suggests that the protesters in Rosslyn today might have briefly blocked the street, but otherwise traffic camera images show them standing on the sidewalk and crossing when the walk signal comes on.

As of 4:30 p.m. a sizable police presence is on scene monitoring the protest.

Fighting in Gaza is continuing amid the intensifying Israel-Hamas war.

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Protests have been targeting the Arlington offices of military contractors amid the Israel-Hamas war.

At least the second protest in as many days was being held outside of the Lockheed Martin building at 2121 Crystal Drive today. The midday protest featured about ten demonstrators carrying Palestinian flags, holding signs and conducting a “die-in” on the public sidewalk.

They also placed child-sized coffins and baby dolls splashed with red paint on the ground around them. A contingent of Arlington County police officers stood watch over the protest and at one point directed the demonstrators off of private property.

Organizer Hazami Barmada, who was holding a sign with the words “Your Weapons Are Killing Babies,” said the group has been conducting protests around Arlington and D.C. for the past 15 days.

“We do die-ins and silent protests like this to help hopefully inspire the hearts and minds of more people to understand the plight of what’s happening to the… Palestinian population,” she said. “Today, we are in front of Lockheed Martin. We’ve actually been in front of all the weapons manufacturers in the D.C. area. And we’re going to continue to do that to put pressure on corporations that are benefiting financially from the genocide and ethnic cleansing that’s happening towards the Palestinian people right now.”

“The seventh of October, we saw a massive spike in [Lockheed Martin’s] stock and also the revenue of the support for these companies that are benefiting,” Barmada continued, referencing the day that Hamas militants crossed into Israel from Gaza and killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians. “So we’re putting our bodies out on the line right now. To say enough benefiting financially off of the murder of innocent civilians.”

Since Oct. 7, Israeli bombardments and a currently underway ground invasion have reportedly killed more than 10,000 Palestinians. Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests have broken out worldwide since the start of the war, and international pressure has ramped up for a release of the several hundred Israeli hostages being held by Hamas and for Israel to minimize civilian deaths.

“Human rights for the Palestinians does not negate human rights for someone else,” Barmada said. “We do this in from the White House, the State Department, all buildings around D.C., to remind people of the cost of inaction and the human realities behind it.”

Barmada said the group protested at the U.S. Capitol yesterday and plans to protest in front of Raytheon in Rosslyn later today.

The Rosslyn protest will be at least the second this week at the now Arlington-based company’s headquarters. Yesterday six activists were charged with trespassing by Arlington police during a protest “to confront the war profiteer on its role in producing weapons that are causing extreme suffering and death to innocent children, women, and men around the world,” according to the anti-war group Code Pink.

ACPD spokeswoman Alli Shorb confirmed the incident. A group of six people from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Wisconsin and New York — ranging in age from 28 to 77 — were arrested, charged and released, she said.

More, below, from ACPD.

TRESPASS, 2023-11080112, 1100 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 12:12 p.m. on November 8, police were dispatched to the report of trespassing. Upon arrival, it was determined a group of individuals were protesting on private property. The property manager reportedly spoke with the group and asked them to leave which they refused. Responding officers then spoke with each member of the group regarding the request from the property manager and advised they would be subject to arrest if they remained on the property. The below listed individuals remained on the property following the announcement and were arrested and charged with trespassing and released on personal recognizance.

James Jarvis contributed to this report

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A climate change protest temporarily shut down a Rosslyn bank this morning.

The relatively small demonstration drew a handful of older protests and a few of grad-school age to the Wells Fargo at 1500 Wilson Blvd.

The organizers, ThirdAct Virginia, touted it as a protest of elders demanding climate action alongside youth climate activists. It featured rocking chairs outside the bank and a sit-in inside. Just over a dozen people participated, most of them older.

The issue, according to organizers, is Wells Fargo’s role in the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a planned 300-mile natural gas pipeline which would run through parts of Virginia. Construction on the pipeline was again halted by a federal court this week, despite being fast-tracked by Congress in the recent debt limit deal.

More on the protest, below, from a ThirdAct Virginia press release.

Members of ThirdAct Virginia, elders demanding climate action, and youth climate activists shut down an Arlington branch of Wells Fargo, disrupting business by staging a sit-in inside and protesting outside.

The multi-generational group, some sitting in rocking chairs outside the bank, sang songs and chanted, and waved signs and banners, demanding that the bank stop funding new fossil fuel projects including the contested Mountain Valley Pipeline that cuts across the mountains of southern Appalachia in West Virginia and Virginia.

The Friday protest is part of a series of actions across the country against the big four dirty banks (Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America, and Citibank) that are the worst offenders, continuing to finance billions of dollars in new fossil fuel projects, despite surging climate disasters. A large public protest with art, music and dance is planned for later in the day outside Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco.

The July 14 protests are timed to coincide with the announcement Friday of the bank’s 2023 second quarter earnings results.

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Heavy traffic on the GW Parkway due to protest (via Google Maps)

The northbound lanes of the GW Parkway are blocked near Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington due to a protest.

Climate protesters associated with the group Declare Emergency blocked the busy commuter route shortly before 8:45 a.m.

U.S. Park Police officers are on the scene.

Northbound traffic on the Parkway is backed up to Spout Run.

Update at 9:25 a.m. — Traffic is starting to move again, according to WTOP and USPP.

Hat tip to Alan Henney. Map via Google Maps.

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A march against drugs drew a large crowd of parents and community members to Wakefield High School, where a student died this week.

Sergio Flores was found unconscious in the bathroom Tuesday morning and rushed to the hospital in critical condition. He died Thursday and his death is being investigated as a possible overdose.

Latino parents, mostly mothers, planned the march as a way to show love and support for their children.

Classes were canceled for Wakefield students today (Friday) after the overdose this week and a lockdown Thursday prompted by a possibly armed trespasser. Arlington County police have since arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the trespassing incident.

Still, parents marched, carrying signs saying “Your community is here for you!” and “Queremos lo mejor para nuestros hijos,” Spanish for “We want the best for our children.”

The idea came from a community meeting held by community activists Elder Julio Basurto and Janeth Valenzuela — who wear many hats, but this time, were organizing under their organization, Juntos en Justicia. They have been advocating for more attention to opioids in Arlington Public Schools for more than a year through the organization.

https://twitter.com/ElderBasurto/status/1621615797981290496

Attendance swelled and other community members, as well as some School Board and County Board members, joined the march.

“It was very scary for me to read the student involved in the drug incident has died,” said Green Valley resident Frederick Craddock. “That just gives you an example: It’s in our neighborhood schools. It’s in the home somewhere, so then parents have a big role. It’s all got to come together. Maybe this will raise more awareness of the issue.”

Rebecca Brunner said three generations of her family have attended Wakefield. The high school needs police officers returned and the school system needs to be more transparent, she said.

“Don’t tell us there’s a medical emergency when a child ODed. Tell us the truth so we know what to tell our children, we know how to talk to them, we know to tell them, ‘don’t take anything,'” she said. “Fentanyl is out there.”

“Yesterday, I’m getting a video from inside the school of the SWAT team coming through the doors with assault rifles and they’re telling us, ‘Oh, we might have a possible trespasser,'” Brunner continued. “Yeah, something way more than that is going on.”

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Police and firefighters on scene of a reported overdose at Wakefield High School (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:55 p.m. on 2/3/23) A coalition of parents will be marching on Friday at Wakefield High School to encourage students not to use drugs and to demand a countywide response to in-school opioid use.

The planned silent demonstration responds to an apparent drug overdose on school grounds discovered yesterday morning (Tuesday). An unconscious student was found in a boys bathroom and taken to the hospital in critical condition. Medics evaluated four additional kids at the school and students were released early so police could conduct an investigation.

Parents who plan on marching came up with the idea during a Spanish-language Zoom call hosted by Juntos en Justicia (Together in Justice in Spanish), a community advocacy group, last night after the news of the overdose spread.

“We’re going to walk to Wakefield with signs of encouragement and love for students,” said Juntos en Justicia founder Janeth Valenzuela. “We want to let them know they’re not alone.”

She said co-founder Elder Julio Basurto intend to meet with Superintendent Francisco Durán. Kenmore Community Families in Action, a school community-based organization which she helped found, intends to host a meeting open to all parents on Thursday, Feb. 23 at Kenmore Middle School.

“Every community has this issue,” said Valenzuela, who previously sounded the alarm about opioids in a report ARLnow published last fall.

Last night, parents floated a number of APS responses, including an immediate increase in school security.

“You can improve your security right now. You can check the bathrooms right now,” said Basurto. “We continue to have reports about distribution inside the school, and usage in hallways, bathrooms and classrooms. We still have reports of… people coming in and out of buildings without being checked.”

They heard from parents that drug deals involving dealers from within and outside Arlington are facilitated via social media and that some students are, allegedly, bullied into taking drugs.

Many meeting participants expressed a desire for the return of School Resource Officers, Basurto and Valenzuela said. The Arlington School Board removed them from school buildings to decrease racial disparities in interactions with police inside school buildings.

Should SROs be reinstated — a process that the Arlington County Police Department have previously said could take years due to staffing shortages — Valenzuela said some feel the dynamic could be different because of recent policing reforms. Anecdotally, she said newer recruits “don’t treat us with disregard” during stops or when responding to 911 calls.

“Parents think that the respect for the uniform will alleviate the problems,” she said.

Parents asked about supervised after-school programming and suggested that the Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation update existing programs to be more relevant to younger generations and do fresh promotion.

Some parents want more effective disciplinary action for students caught dealing drugs while others want the zoning code to prohibit vape shops from opening near schools.

Basurto says APS needs to evaluate the efficacy of existing drug abuse curricula in schools.

“Just because we have presentations doesn’t mean we’re having success,” he said.

Last year, APS published a newsletter summarizing the work by its six substance abuse counselors, staff and teachers and Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative to combat the opioid crisis. These are some of the efforts to date:

  • Substance use counselors have trained more than 100 school staff on how to reverse an opioid overdose using naloxone, known by the brand name “Narcan”
  • AARI provided some 65 boxes of Narcan throughout school buildings
  • Counselors and AARI are developing resource folders and medication deactivation bags for families and have  provided community education at PTA meetings, school events and online
  • Counselors added a K-12 over-the-counter medication safety curriculum this year and provide regular education on avoiding use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs in the middle and high schools, as well as lessons for fourth and fifth-grade students

Last night, more than 100 parents tried to log into the Zoom meeting and Valenzuela constantly let in new people as others logged off. The demand for information and action underscores the longstanding concern among parents, Basurto says.

“We’ve been telling the schools for over a year now about the situation in Arlington Public Schools, we’ve shared concerns specifically about Wakefield,” he said. “This is a serious problem and we need to take immediate action on these issues.”

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Groups of Arlington Public Schools students walked out today (Tuesday) to protest model policies the Commonwealth says local school boards should adopt regarding the treatment of transgender children.

Released last week, the draft policies from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), among other things, direct schools only to affirm a transgender student’s identity if parents request it. The document is perceived as a rebuttal to last year’s Democratic-led policies, which advised schools to affirm the child’s gender expression regardless of their family’s support.

In less than a week, a student-led LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization in Virginia mobilized kids across the state to protest the proposed revisions. The group said these changes would allow students and teachers to misgender transgender students while forcing those students to use restrooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth.

In Arlington, walkouts were scheduled at Wakefield and Washington-Liberty high schools, the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, and Thomas Jefferson and Kenmore middle schools, according to the student group, Pride Liberation Project.

A few dozen W-L teens gathered this morning in nearby Quincy Park (1021 N. Quincy Street), and some — including a few transgender students — made speeches and spoke to the media. The walkout was not school-sponsored, per an email to W-L parents.

“It’s just so bad. I don’t understand why [Gov. Glenn Youngkin] wants to bully these kids, including myself, I don’t see what’s so scary about using the name Matteo, using he/him pronouns, and why that threatens him so much, but it’s really sad that it does,” W-L junior Matteo Hope, a transgender boy, told ARLnow.

Mars Cirtain, a W-L junior, said politicians and family members cannot override how transgender students choose to express themselves.

“For a parent to tell a child that they are not the person they identify as is the same as their parents telling them, ‘You are not the person I raised you to be,'” Cirtain said. “It’s not about what your parents think you are, and it’s not about what your family thinks you can be. It’s about who you are and you get to decide that for yourself, not Gov. Youngkin, or your parents.”

Under the draft, teachers could not be compelled to use a student’s preferred pronouns, and students would use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth. Schools would only accommodate students who identify as transgender at the written request of their parents. The document says these changes respect parents’ rights and beliefs and reverse Democrats’ attempts to “promot[e] a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools.”

Waltz Fellone, W-L senior and a school organizer for Pride Liberation Project, told participants that Youngkin’s policies were “cruel and evil.”

“All of you have made a difference,” they said. “I know it may not feel like it because we are just a small school in Arlington. We might not even be affected by this, but it still means a lot.”

Generally, the W-L students in attendance expressed optimism that Arlington Public Schools would continue to affirm transgender students’ right to self-expression, with support from residents of Arlington, which runs deep blue. W-L junior Sophia Braier said she has “several” friends who would be affected by this decision if they lived in more conservative, rural areas.

“Beyond just protecting people here, we’re doing it to garner attention all over Virginia,” Braier said.

The walkout drew a large crowd at Wakefield this morning, according to Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), who posted about it on social media.

APS and neighbor Fairfax County Public Schools are adhering to their current policies while they review the updates, ARLnow previously reported. FCPS students also held walkouts at a number of schools today.

Yesterday (Monday) marked the start of a 30-day public comment period in which people can respond to the policies and potentially change VDOE’s approach. APS says it is currently reviewing the draft policies and would not take action until it has reviewed the final document.

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(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) The Arlington County Board today called for action to stem the tide of gun violence, while groups of students around the county held walkouts in response to the elementary school shooting in Texas.

The Board condemned gun violence and urged state legislators to tighten gun control in a statement issued this afternoon.

Board members called on state lawmakers to close the gift exemption to background checks and allow local licensing and registration requirements for buying and selling guns, among other measures.

“There is a great deal more to be done to address gun violence, and we call on the Virginia General Assembly and the Governor to make protecting all Virginians a priority and to remove the restrictions that bar the Commonwealth’s localities from implementing the gun safety actions that make sense for our communities,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, students at Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington Career Center, Dorothy Hamm Middle School and Williamsburg Middle School participated in walkouts as part of a national effort led by Students Demand Action.

Around 20 students at Washington-Liberty participated in the demonstration, walking to Quincy Park, where students took turns giving short speeches.

One of the students participating said she had to ask her friends about their safety on three different occasions in a year due to issues related to gun violence.

“We’re so desensitized to our own deaths in this society,” she said, “People are desensitized to them dying, that’s terrible because this has happened so much.”

Students also talked about a shooting threat their high school received in October, which led to the school shutting down for the day. The threat turned out to be false.

“This nationwide walkout is mainly to protest the fact that we go to school, especially with bomb threats and shooting threats, and have to sit there, subconsciously knowing that ‘hey, we may be victim one day,'” Megan, a student, said.

Megan told ARLnow that she heard about the walkout from an email the school principal sent in the morning acknowledging the nationwide walkout, as well as hearing about the effort. Another participant, Grace, learned of the walkout from her friends and her mother. Both students said they had participated in several walkouts against school gun violence in the past.

“I went to this walkout because I think people should protest for things they believe in, and this is something I believe in,” Grace said.

Students at the Career Center walkout held up signs that read “Enough is Enough” and “Thoughts & Prayers are NOT Enough,” according to photos tweeted by CBS News correspondent Natalie Brand.

“We’re out here not because we want to skip class but because we fear for our lives going to school, because anyone can go out and buy an assault rifle and shoot up a school,” one of the students said in a speech, according to a video tweeted by Brand.

Arlington police stepped up patrols around schools in the wake of the mass shooting. Arlington Public Schools, in an email sent to families, said support services are available for students and staff trying to grapple with the horrific crime.

The County Board’s full statement is below.

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