Not once, not twice, but four times, vandals have targeted a Black Lives Matter sign in front of the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington near Ballston.
Church officials were first alerted of the vandalism on Saturday morning, and presume that the destruction occurred overnight.
“It’s been a rocky history at this point,” said Scott LaGanga, an elder at the church, which is located at 601 N. Vermont Street in the Bluemont neighborhood.
First Presbyterian is at least the fourth church in Arlington reported to have a racial-justice sign vandalized this year.
The church has gone through four signs since one first went up on Oct. 4, LaGanga said. The sign read “Black Lives Matter” on a striped background imitating the Philadelphia Pride flag, which includes the colors for Gay Pride and Trans-rights flags as well as black and brown stripes to symbolize people of color.
“They’re clearly doing it in the dark because they have a certain viewpoint and don’t want to share that they have it,” LaGanga said.
After the first sign was stolen, the church invested in steel cables to secure it. Instead, vandals covered it in graffiti. Once, they crossed out the “V” in “Black Lives Matter” to read “Black Lies Matter,” LaGanga said.
This time, someone cut the sign out of the cables and took it.
LaGanga explained that the church has been more engaged in issues of racial justice, putting up signs and hosting a weekly outdoor vigil for an end to racial injustice. Acts of vandalism will not shaken the resolve of the church, he said.
“The church has taken a strong position on inclusion and racial justice,” said LaGanga. “It reaffirms the stance we are taking and the reason we’re going to replace the sign.”
This time, LaGanga said the church is considering security cameras, which he hopes will catch whoever is targeting the sign.
“We’re so resolved that if someone wants to do it, they’ll do it on camera,” he said.
First Presbyterian has received strong support from people in the community, many of whom are neighbors but not members, LaGanga said.
“We were surprised in the uptick in support from others in the community who were upset by this,” he said.
The first time, the church submitted a police report, but LaGanga does not see much point in submitting more since there have been no leads to date on the vandal.
In the wake of the protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd this summer, a rash of church signs were vandalized. Black Lives Matter sign were vandalized at Rock Spring Congregational church and at St. George’s Episcopal Church as well as a racial justice sign was vandalized outside of Clarendon United Methodist Church.
Acts of vandalism against BLM signage also occurred in secular spaces this summer, including S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395.
Photos courtesy Mark Blacknell
Arlington County police are investigating a case of razor blades taped to the bottom of a political sign.
A victim was cut after she removed a sign from along George Mason Drive on Wednesday afternoon, suffering minor injuries, police said today. A photo released by police show several razor blades attached to the bottom of the sign.
“The Arlington County Police Department is investigating… and is urging the public to take caution when removing these items,” police said in a press release. The department is also asking for members of the public to come forward with tips.
Police did not speculate about a motive for the razor-laden sign, but this year’s fall election cycle in Arlington was marred by widespread removal and destruction of political signs. So far, no other incidents of this nature have been reported, police said.
The full ACPD press release is below.
The Arlington County Police Department is investigating the report of razor blades located on the bottom of a political sign and is urging the public to take caution when removing these items.
Between noon and 3 p.m. on November 4, the victim was removing political signage located in the median of George Mason Drive between Yorktown Boulevard and Four Mile Run Drive. Upon bringing these items back to a family member’s home, the victim was separating the signage from the metal base when she was cut by razor blades taped to the bottom of the sign. The victim suffered minor injuries which did not require medical treatment. At this time, no other reports of similar incidents have been reported in Arlington County.
This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180 or ACPDTipline @arlingtonva.us. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
The Arlington County Police Department encourages community members to inspect signage before and after they are removed from the public right-of-way and private property. If you observe signs of tampering, report for investigation by calling the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Two residents of the Fairlington Arbor condominiums were told by the condo board to dig up their spooky gravestones that seek to lay bigotry to rest.
Katrina Reed and her husband Joe decked out their yard with six decorative gravestones, but they papered over the space for names of the deceased to bury hate, racism, religions discrimination, sexism, homophobia and white supremacy instead.
Both Reeds teach and coach high school basketball. As teachers, Katrina said they strive to create an inclusive environment in their remote and in-person classrooms.
“Our thought process was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to be inclusive at home?'” she said.
The death-to-discrimination markers received a lot of love from neighbors, but drew the ire of the Fairlington Arbor management. The dispute centers around whether the gravestones are signs, which are not allowed unless the Board of Directors approve them, or seasonal decor, which are allowed if they are “modest and in keeping with community norms.”
A letter from management and addressed to the Reeds on behalf of the Fairlington Arbor Board of Directors asked them to “correct this matter” to “avoid further action by the Board of Directors.”
The letter treats the gravestones as decor, but the messages as signs.
“While the frames on your sign are compliant, the content is not,” the letter said. Joe disputed the application of the bylaw in an email to management.
“The signs displayed are not deemed ‘seasonal’ by the board since they display a message that does not fit the Halloween occasion,” Arbor management said in response.
The letter’s author, Fairlington Arbor’s general manager, declined to comment further. In an automated message, Matt Duncan, the President of the Board of Directors, said he is out of office and referred inquiries to management.
In a private neighborhood Facebook group, Katrina asked her neighbors for advice and to see if others had similar experiences. The response was overwhelming, with more than 175 comments on Katrina’s post so far.
“People went nuts,” she said. “They were ready to light their pitchforks and find the board members.”
One Facebook commenter said of the decorations: “We thought they were awesome. 10/10. Do not take them down.”
“These have made me very happy every time I walk by!” another said.
The couple maintains that stifling free speech causes more division than signs promoting inclusivity.
“If you can let people express First Amendment rights within a time period, I think it solves these issues,” Joe said.
The couple said the bylaws need to be clarified and they plan to speak about it during the next board meeting on Oct. 27. Joe said ironically, he was on the board and helped write the bylaws.
“I don’t envy them,” he said.
On Facebook, some theorized that the condo board was pushed to take action by a handful of complainers.
“Neighbors have been complimentary of our messages of inclusion, but I seem to have offended the racists, homophobes, etc.,” Katrina wrote in her post.
Others guessed that the current political climate might have caused an overreaction by condo management.
“It’s probable that no one is offended by your decorations but management just wants to head off something truly objectionable,” wrote one commenter, who congratulated the couple for speaking up.
This summer, the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington was the site of a showdown between those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and counter-demonstrators who replaced BLM slogans with pro-Trump messages.
Civ Fed to Study County’s Form of Gov’t — “Herbert Hoover was residing – albeit somewhat tenuously – in the White House the last time Arlington had a major change in its governance structure. Nearly 90 years later, the Arlington County Civic Federation may get the ball rolling on bringing that structure into the 21st century.” [InsideNova]
Biden Signs Defaced, Stolen — “A big sign promoting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign in Arlington’s Aurora Highlands neighborhood was defaced with pro-President Trump graffiti sometime between Sunday evening and Monday morning,” reports Washingtonian. Separately, a recent Nextdoor post shows video of an older man stealing a Biden sign in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood. [Washingtonian]
Alleged Courthouse Flasher Arrested — “The victim was walking in the area when she felt the suspect allegedly grab her arm from behind her. As she turned around, she observed the male naked. The suspect then fled on foot. Arriving officers, with the assistance of Metro Transit Police, located the suspect in the area and took him into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]
ACPD Conducting Food Drive — Arlington County police “will be collecting donations at drive-thru donation stations on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at three locations: Westover Baptist Church – 1125 Patrick Henry Drive, Police Headquarters – 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Giant Food – 2901 S. Glebe Road.” [Arlington County]
Crystal City Concert Series Goes Virtual — “With the health and safety of our residents and visitors in mind, Fridays at the Fountain is switching to an all virtual format. Tune in every Friday evening at 7pm, beginning August 7th, for an hour of live music streamed right to your home.” [National Landing BID]
High School Sports Update — Updated at 8:15 a.m. — “The Virginia High School League’s Executive Committee voted 34-1 Monday to delay the start of the 2020-21 high school sports season by implementing a compressed high school sports scheduling plan that would run as of now from Dec. 28-June 26. The schedule would begin with the winter sports season, starting in late December, followed by the traditional fall sports season and ending with the spring sports season.” [InsideNova]
Nearby: Break-ins at Eden Center — “Multiple business were broken into at the Eden Center. Heavy police presence until further notice. Please avoid the area. No danger to public at this time. Any information to assist the investigation, please contact 703-241-5053. Thank you for your patience and understanding” [Twitter]
Blind Triplets Have Coronavirus — “The blind Virginia triplets who defied the odds and made history when they became Eagle Scouts in 2017 are facing another challenge. All three young men have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 and their father is praying they continue to beat the odds.” [WUSA 9]
New Food Drop-off Boxes in Ballston — “FLARE, an electric shuttle service, has partnered with the Ballston Business Improvement District to collect and deliver food donations for the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) every Friday beginning on April 24.” [Press Release]
CPRO Hosting Biz Listening Session This AM — “Our speakers will discuss the challenges local small businesses are facing as well as the opportunities that have arisen and the resources available to assist our business community, including financial assistance.” [Zoom]
Civ Fed Backs Crystal City Growth Plan — “Delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation on April 21 agreed to support efforts by three civic associations adjacent to Amazon’s new HQ2 in providing a road map for handling growth in the corridor. The resolution, which garnered support from more than 80 percent of voting delegates during an online meeting, puts the Civic Federation behind the ‘Livability 22202’ action plan.” [InsideNova]
Beyer Wants Help for State, Local Gov’ts — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), during House Floor debate on the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, urged his colleagues to send urgently-needed federal aid to state and local governments on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Press Release, Twitter]
Clarendon Cafe Delivers Coffee to First Responders — “A Turkish small business owner is giving free coffee to health care workers and first responders fighting the coronavirus in the US state of Virginia. East West Coffee Wine, which has been opened in Arlington County since 2017, says it is now time to give back to those ‘who are tirelessly working to protect us.'” [Anadolu Agency]
Video: Talking Small Biz with Scott Parker — “ARLnow talked with Scott Parker — of Don Tito, BASH Boxing, Bearded Goat Barber and other local businesses — about the state of local business in Arlington during the coronavirus pandemic.” [Facebook]
Fire Union Raises Alarm About Lack of Quarantining — “An Arlington County firefighter tested positive for coronavirus this week and the union is concerned that colleagues were not told to quarantine.” [NBC 4]
The Toll for First Responders During the Outbreak — “We are starting to see the mental and physical toll that this pandemic is having on our members and their families. Please continue to practice social distancing and listen to the local leaders.” [Twitter]
Signs of Support From the Community — Signs and other expressions of appreciation for first responders have been popping up around Arlington, as have signs urging continued social distancing. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
GMU Prof Trying to Spur Coronavirus Solutions — “George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen hopes to incentivize a stronger response to the coronavirus by distributing more than $1 million in prizes for research leading to immediate help in fighting the pandemic.” [George Mason University]
Beyer Supports Relief Bill — Said Rep. Don Beyer, regarding the record 3.3 million new unemployment claims: “These numbers are far worse than anything we saw during the Great Recession. We need to move quickly to help those that are getting hurt… That is why the bill passed by the Senate to increase unemployment insurance by an extra $600 a week for four months and make billions available for small business grants and loan payments is so important.” [House of Representatives]
Local Testing is Taking a Long Time — “An Arlington, Virginia, resident told Axios he got tested a week ago, but his results have now been delayed twice; he’ll likely end up waiting nine to 10 days for his results.” [Axios]
Ambar Offering Family-Style Meals to Go — “Street Guys Hospitality, renowned for its neighborhood restaurants that offer set price, next-level Balkan & Mexican dining without limits, is stepping up with a plan to help feed the communities it serves while supporting its staff members during this crisis.” [Press Release]
A thousand signs encouraging voters to “Dump Trump” may pop up around Arlington, if local Democrats are able to raise enough money to fund the rest of the printing run.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee says a donor has already contributed $1,000 for the yard signs, but it is seeking another $2,000. It made the fundraising pitch online Monday, to coincide with the Presidents Day holiday.
The signs will be distributed free of charge to anyone who requests one, the party said.
More from Arlington Democrats:
For Presidents Day we remember the lives and achievements of our past presidents. Leaders who embodied honor and dignity and who worked in pursuit of our shared American values of freedom, opportunity, and equality. But we know President Trump couldn’t care less about these values. He’s shown nothing but contempt for the principles we hold dear, and his tenure has been marked by corruption, incompetence, greed, and willful ignorance.
So in honor of Presidents Day, we’re poised to order hundreds of these “Dump Trump” yard signs to show our Democratic spirit all around town and remind people to vote and volunteer!
— Arlington Democrats (@arlingtondems) February 17, 2020
ACPD Gets New Electronic Sign — “Through a @VaDOT Safe Routes to School grant, ACPD has acquired a new variable message signboard with trailer. The message board will be used around @APSVirginia schools to alert drivers of hazards and share important safety information to help keep students safe as they commute.” [Twitter]
Arlington Switches ART Bus Contractor — “The county government on Dec. 29 will switch transit providers, having inked a five-year deal with Ohio-based First Transit to operate the local bus service. The existing transit provider, National Express, has been providing service under contract since 2009. County Manager Mark Schwartz said on-time performance and other factors were among the reasons for making the switch.” [InsideNova]
Police Warn of Delivery Truck Thefts — “Arlington County Police warn delivery truck drivers to not leave trucks open and unattended or running during drop-offs. They also urge the community to report any suspicious activity or behavior in the area. ‘These are instances a lot of times when someone has left a vehicle unattended and that’s how it gets stolen,’ said [ACPD spokeswoman] Kirby Clark.” [Fox 5]
Airport Authority Approves $15 Minimum Wage — “Workers at Reagan National and Dulles International airports celebrated Wednesday after their union said it struck an agreement with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to boost worker pay to $15 an hour.” [DCist]
Thirteen Police Officers Sworn In — “December 16, 2019 marked graduation day for the Arlington County Police Department’s 13 newest officers, as Session 141 graduated from the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy.” [Arlington County]
County Urges Census Participation — “All we want for this holiday season is for everyone in Arlington to be counted in the 2020 Census! Census numbers provide all kinds of resources for Arlington. Your Census response helps Arlington to get its fair share of federal funding that supports our schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs throughout the County.” [Arlington County]
A site plan amendment has been proposed to allow the company to place a rooftop sign at 2221 S. Clark Street. WeWork occupies the entire building, with a large co-working space and a WeLive co-living space.
Approval of the amendment is docketed for the Arlington County Board meeting this Saturday (July 13).
Arlington’s sign ordinance currently allows signs above 40 feet to be approved administratively, but the site plan for the building predates the ordinance change.
“It is no longer a standard site plan condition to require County Board approval of such signs,” staff said in a report on the amendment. “Therefore, staff recommends that the County Board adopt the attached ordinance approving a site plan amendment… for the building located at 2221 S. Clark St.”
Drivers at the busy Washington and Wilson Blvd intersection are continuing to make the left turn onto Wilson, despite that action having been made illegal in March.
Current plans call for the tricky intersection to be overhauled and made easier to navigate for both pedestrians and drivers. That includes eliminating the left turn that has caused frequent backups.
At least two signs at the intersection indicate that left turns are not allowed, even though the street does feature a left-turn lane that serves seemingly no purpose as the road funnels into one lane at the other side of the intersection.
County transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow that the violations are not surprising when a change is made to an intersection like that.
“It takes time to change driver behavior, especially when the change is to a long-standing travel pattern,” said Balliet. “We always start with education, finding ways to inform drivers about the change and their options. Our efforts so far included a blog post and video shared multiple times through the county’s email listservs, social media posts from our department as well as Arlington County Police, an electronic message board located near the intersection, and the new signage we’ve installed noting the restriction.”
Navigation apps Waze and Google Maps no longer direct drivers to make the turn, which Balliet said was partially the result of communication from county staff.
Balliet said he believes as construction continues on the intersection, known at Clarendon Circle, the confusion should clear up.
“The no-left-turn will become clearer to drivers as construction for the Clarendon Circle project moves forward and the street is reconfigured to remove the left turn pocket,” said Balliet.