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When Diana Gamerman was little, she wanted to do exactly what her older sister did.
The Arlington resident has a studio in Alexandria called DianaArt, where she sells her work, but it’s on Nextdoor where she have been gaining a degree of local fame.
Gamerman has been painting professionally since she was 22 years old, she told ARLnow. While she owes her initial interest in art to her sister, the now 80-year-old has continued her passion, specializing in watercolor, oil painting and sculpture work. Her work has even been featured in the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
“[I’ve] done it all,” Gamerman joyfully said.
Gamerman’s inspiration comes from everyday life experiences. What she chooses to paint is influenced by things she likes — if she sees a beautiful landscape, she’ll create art from it. She also takes her inspiration from Wayne Thiebaud, a California artist who specialized in landscapes and cars.
She said watercolor is more convenient to use but she opts for oil pastel when the weather is good — “don’t have to worry about things flying away.”
One painting, of her music teacher, took three years to complete, she said.
Gamerman posts to Nextdoor, the social media website for neighbors, photos of her paintings, which are most often pictures of homes in the neighborhood. From time to time, she posts sketches of people sitting at Compass Coffee or pictures of her sculptures.
The posts have become something of a fixture of the local social network.
One post she made on Nextdoor, of a home in her neighborhood, garnered hundreds of likes and dozens of comments on her talent. Her feed shows dozens of paintings of “what is happening” in her neighborhood, at a development project, at her studio, at a coffee shop.
In another painting, vivid yellows and oranges mesh together to show scenes of workers at a construction site and another with workers doing road work.
“I can show you what is happening in my neighborhood because I love [to] paint the work men because they wear such bright colors,” she wrote with the post.
She called Nextdoor a “wonderful” platform where she can share her work and people reach out to her to commission paintings. Her posts are a way to make extra money and enjoy her time — another hobby of sorts, in addition to playing the banjo and mandolin, she said.
The site is also a place to find a sense of community that transcends the local and national controversies that prompt less neighborly discussions.
“Everybody makes nice comments on Nextdoor,” Gamerman said.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares visited Arlington yesterday (Thursday) to launch a political fund aimed at unseating progressive prosecutors.
The reform-minded approach of “left-wing liberal prosecutors” has “directly resulted in higher crime in our communities and they must be stopped,” Miyares said in a statement that specifically called out Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano.
The goal of the Protecting Americans Action Fund, he said, is to “elect District Attorneys who will enforce the law and prosecute criminals, instead of this warped version of criminal justice, which is endangering Americans.”
Miyares did not name-drop Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Descano’s Arlington counterpart, but coming to Arlington was enough to prompt her to mount a defense of her prosecutorial approach.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church fired back on Twitter with a volley of tweets.
2/16 Through the campaign & since his election, the AG targeted, often by name, Commonwealth’s Attorneys in NOVA, whose counties actually are the safest & have the lowest crime rates of any large jurisdictions in Virginia and country. This is particularly true of my jurisdiction.
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) March 24, 2022
Dehghani-Tafti was elected in 2019 on a pledge to reform the criminal justice system by reducing racial disparities in prosecution as well as recidivism and incarceration, while investigating wrongful convictions. Last year, there was an effort to recall her that accused Dehghani-Tafti of offering criminals lenient plea deals.
Miyares contends crime is up in places like Northern Virginia, under the leadership of Descano, Dehghani-Tafti and Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj. But Arlington’s top prosecutor says these jurisdictions “have the lowest crime rates of any large jurisdictions in Virginia and country.”
She reiterated the crime trends she touted earlier this year, including that her jurisdiction recorded no homicides in 2021 — down from three homicides in 2020 and two in 2019.
(Two reported deaths last year were in federal jurisdiction, including the police officer who was stabbed, shot and killed outside the Pentagon and the security contractor who died at the U.S. State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center.)
“I’ve long resisted the claim that the drop in homicide is due solely to my policies. Instead, I’ve credited the work of our County Board, local delegation, police department, school board, defense bar, public defender, and community and faith groups in teaming up to prevent crime,” she said.
“And yet, the AG and other anti-reformers have no hesitation in cherry picking any individual incident or any uptick in any crime, however slight, to mislead the public and paint a false picture of our reform achievements,” she continued.
Some crimes were trending up during her election year, 2019, and continued upward during her first year of office. This includes an uptick in property crimes, driven largely by carjackings, according to 2020 crime data — the most recent available from Arlington County Police Department.
This uptick prompted more police patrols and coordinated regional response in 2021, which may explain why, according to preliminary ACPD data for last year, carjackings dropped from 16 in 2020 to eight, while car thefts dropped from 323 in 2020 to 306.
Arlington police say they’re now investigating a series of drive-by paintball and pellet gun shootings.
The shootings are believed to have been inspired by a viral TikTok trend dubbed the “Orbeez challenge,” which has led to numerous reports from across the U.S. of injuries and arrests from people being shot with pellets, paintballs or gel-balls.
ARLnow reported yesterday that four people were struck by paintballs shot from a passing car in Crystal City on Friday. One person was hospitalized. Today Arlington police said two recent incidents of people being shot by pellet guns, fired from passing vehicles, may be tied to the social media trend.
“The Arlington County Police Department takes these incidents seriously and continues to actively investigate to identify those responsible,” said the police department.
More from an ACPD press release, below.
The Arlington County Police Department is investigating four reports of paintballs and pellets being discharged from vehicles at community members in the last week. Similar incidents have been reported in other states and appear to stem from challenges originated on social media. While the motivation behind the Arlington incidents is unknown at this time, the Arlington County Police Department takes these incidents seriously and continues to actively investigate to identify those responsible.
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 2022-03160222, S. Eads Street at 12th Street S. At approximately 6:00 p.m. on March 16, police were dispatched to the report of disorderly conduct. Upon arrival, it was determined the victim was walking in the area when the suspect vehicle approached and discharged a pellet gun, striking the victim. The suspect vehicle is described as a maroon SUV.
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 2022-03180231/0254, 1400 block of S. Eads Street/15th Street S. at S. Eads. At approximately 7:24 p.m. on March 18, police were dispatched to the report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined the two victims were walking in the area when the suspect vehicle approached and the passenger discharged a paintball gun striking the victims, a parked vehicle and the door to a business. At approximately 9:10 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of an assault and determined two additional victims were walking in the area when they were struck by the suspect discharging a paintball gun from the vehicle. The suspect vehicle is described as a silver, older model four door sedan.
MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 2022-03210246, Washington Boulevard at N. Highland Street. At approximately 4:54 p.m. on March 21, police were dispatched to the report of a person with a gun. Upon arrival, it was determined the victim was walking in the area when he was struck by pellets discharged from a vehicle. The suspect vehicle is described as a gray or light blue small SUV.
Report Information and Incidents to Police for Investigation
These remain active criminal investigations. Anyone with information related to these incidents is asked to contact the Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] or anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
If you are the victim or witness of similar incidents, report immediately to police by calling the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency. Provide the dispatcher with as much information as possible including vehicle description, license plate, direction of travel and suspect(s) description.
A tweet correcting the grammar and style of a press release from the Arlington teachers union has gotten some national media attention.
A local homeschooling mom tweeted pictures of the corrections she says she and her children made to a press release sent by the Arlington Education Association, which represents educators and staff in Arlington Public Schools.
— Ellen Gallery (@ellenfgallery) December 30, 2021
The New York Post, Fox News and the Daily Mail have since picked up Ellen Gallery’s edits, and her tweet has gone viral, garnering nearly 2,000 likes and 740 retweets as of Monday morning. AEA President Ingrid Gant has since released a statement taking ownership of the errors and explaining that the release was actually a draft that had not been edited before publication.
Gant sent the initial release after APS announced Wednesday evening that in the new year, amid record levels of reported COVID-19 cases, it would continue in-person instruction and halt sports and activities for up to two weeks. School was set to resume today (Monday) but the snow storm has delayed the start of school until at least Wednesday.
Gant’s letter to Superintendent Francisco Durán, sent early Thursday morning, called on APS to require negative COVID-19 tests of every returning student and staff member, something being done by D.C. public schools. Gant also drew attention to the possibility of increased COVID-19 transmission with lunch indoors, calling for stronger mitigation measures.
But the errors in grammar and style drew more attention than the release’s substance, Gallery told Fox News via Twitter.
“Being able to write a clear, persuasive letter is a fundamental skill all students should master before high school,” she said. “The quality of this writing was so glaringly terrible that it distracts from the writer’s message.”
On Saturday, Gant released a follow-up statement in response to the viral Tweet and the national news coverage.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has persisted far longer than any of us in the Arlington community had anticipated. A draft letter was sent in place of a fully edited one in a rush to address the latest challenge. While I personally take full responsibility for this mistake, errors in my letter should in no way distract from its message: Arlington’s students and educators are returning to school Monday without sufficient testing supplies and with a lunch plan that fails to address the increased risks associated with the Omicron variant. Arlington’s students and educators deserve a safe return to in-person instruction.”
“It is clear that a layered mitigation strategy is the key to safe and effective teaching and learning in our county’s classrooms. As a community, we must focus on acquiring a sufficient supply of tests for every student and staff member prior to our first in-person day in January and on enhancing our meal service mitigations. The children of Arlington deserve no less.”
This week, Smart Restart APS — a group that advocates for improved COVID-19 protocols in schools — is outfitting APS staff with the higher-grade masks reportedly needed to lower the transmission of the highly contagious, but less deadly, Omicron variant. It called on Durán to provide better masks, promote the booster shot and upgrade air filters in school buildings.
The holiday spirit is alive and well in Arlington, with a number of markets and events planned over the next couple of weeks.
First up is Rosslyn’s holiday market, set for this Friday and Saturday (Dec. 10-11) at 1800 N. Lynn Street. Friday night will feature a celebration for the dogs of Rosslyn, including giveaways for the pups as well as a chance for your canine to take photos with Santa Claus. Saturday will feature a family-friendly performance at Synetic Theater and photos with Santa Claus.
There will also be food, free hot chocolate, and a dozen vendors.
After that, the first annual Ballston Holiday Wreath Market is taking place next Friday and Saturday (Dec. 17-18) at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Stuart Street.
Organized by the Ballston BID, the two-day event will include a pop-up outdoor bar, live music from the Arlington Children’s Chorus, a cello performance from local TikTok personality Andrew Savoia, a light art projection from Robin Bell, Santa Claus selfies, and holiday wreaths for sale.
Proceeds from the wreath sales will go towards local nonprofits including Bridges to Independence, Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, Culpepper Garden, Doorways for Women and Families, and The Sycamore School. Wreaths can be ordered in advance online for pick-up at the market.
Arlington County Police Department’s toy-collecting cruiser will also be there on Saturday, ready to receive wrapped gifts that will be donated to area kids.
Performing at 5 p.m. on Friday, 25-year-old Ballston resident Andrew Savoia became gained social media notability last year with his cello covers of modern pop songs. Washingtonian described his music as “Cardi B meets Beethoven.”
Robin Bell’s light art show will be projected onto the Ballston Macy’s storefront, described as a “celebration of holidays around the world.” Bell is known for sometimes politically charged and profound art projections. He previously projected a beach scene in Ballston in 2020. Bell’s holiday illumination will be displayed from 7-9 p.m. each night.
The outdoor bar will include warm beverages, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic hot chocolate, a “mistletoe spice cocktail,” beer, and wine. The hope is that the Ballston Wreath Market will become an annual Arlington tradition, a spokesperson tells ARLnow.
The latte competition is taking place this Sunday morning (Dec. 12), starting at 11 a.m., outside of 2121 Crystal Drive. It will feature seasonal drinks from Commonwealth Joe, The Freshman, and Origin Coffee Lab & Kitchen. Attendees will be able to sample minty creations from each neighborhood coffee shop and vote on their favorite. The event is free.
The next weekend, on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 17-18), the BID is holding a holiday market outside of 2121 Crystal Drive, with an assortment of live music, shopping, and food.
Friday night’s market will feature music from Laygod, a self-described “cult-fiction rock n roll band,” and Nicaraguan musician Pedro Night. Playing Saturday’s market is Jerel Crockett. More than 25 vendors are expected to offer their wares.
In addition to the events, there are a number of light displays in Crystal City. At Long Bridge Park, more than 6,000 white and blue lights are twinkling along the nearly-mile walk along Long Bridge Park Esplanade overlooking the Potomac River. At Gateway Green, the former location of Summer House at 101 12th Street S., “an immersive winter lights art installation” is ongoing through the holiday season.
Can’t get enough Christmas? Other local holiday events can be found in our Arlington event calendar.
Now Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán is warning parents about additional challenges that encourage behavior that could result in the school system seeking police intervention.
Durán said in an email to parents yesterday evening that the theft challenge in September “affected APS schools at every level – elementary through high school.” TikTok banned the trend on Sept. 15.
“We are seeking your help in reminding students of the consequences and serious nature of these challenges,” Durán wrote.
A statement from the superintendent on Friday linked to a WTOP report about additional monthly challenges, which encourage “destructive and harmful acts at school.”
- October: Smack a staff member on the backside.
- November: Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school.
- December: Deck the halls and show your b****.
- January: Jab a breast.
- February: Mess up school signs.
- March: Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria.
- April: Grab some “eggs” (another theft challenge).
- May: Ditch Day.
- June: Flip off the front office.
“Any involvement including filming, assisting, and sharing videos could lead to school consequences,” Durán wrote. “Depending on the severity, engaging in the behaviors listed above could lead to law enforcement involvement.”
As described, the above challenges could rise to the level of criminal vandalism, indecent exposure or even sexual battery and assault.
There is a list of social media challenges on TikTok similar to the most recent “Devious Licks” challenge that encouraged kids to vandalize and steal random objects from schools and post them in videos. Learn more and how to talk to your student: https://t.co/2MzVCqmSA4
— Arlington Public Schools (@APSVirginia) October 7, 2021
This summer the Arlington School Board voted to remove sworn School Resource Officers from school grounds. The Arlington County Police Department and APS are now working on a new agreement for a “Youth Outreach Unit” that would “have meaningful conversations, answer questions, and build relationships.”
The Friday letter from the superintendent, encouraging parental vigilance, is below.
It has come to our attention that there is a list of social media challenges on TikTok similar to the most recent “Devious Licks” TikTok Challenge that encouraged kids to vandalize and steal random objects from their schools and post them in videos.
September’s challenge to vandalize bathrooms affected several APS schools, so we are sharing the list of upcoming challenges for your awareness and support. We ask that parents and guardians speak to your students about the serious nature of these challenges and help educate them that these are not appropriate for school or in the community.
These challenges could be disruptive and harmful to our school community and present a safety concern. Additionally, any involvement including filming, assisting, and sharing videos could lead to school consequences. Students are encouraged to contact their administrator if they are aware or witness any wrongdoing or harm against students, staff or property. Depending on the severity, engaging in the behaviors listed above could lead to law enforcement involvement.
The safety and security of our students, both physical and emotional, is our priority as we continue to create a learning environment that cultivates a culture of kindness, mutual respect, inclusivity and affirmation for our students and staff.
Thank you for your help as we all work together to be vigilant about our students’ online presence.
Dr. Francisco Durán
For hours yesterday, Facebook-owned services, including the Instagram, WhatsApp, and original blue Facebook app, were knocked off the internet.
It was a throwback to the growing pains of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking services more than 10 years ago, when major technical snafus like this were more common.
The timing was also conspicuous, given that the outage came one day after a bombshell 60 Minutes episode in which a former employee levied a number of accusations, including that the company incentivizes “angry, polarizing, divisive content” in order to boost user engagement.
Here at ARLnow HQ, the primary effect of the outage was to disrupt our ability to post stories to our Facebook page and photos to our Instagram account. Also our readership dipped a bit, though not as much as one might imagine given how much traffic Facebook drives.
Elsewhere, though, one would think the widespread use of Facebook and Instagram as a time-filling utility — a quick break from work, a boredom reliever, etc. — actually resulted in some people being more productive during the workday while it was down. Does that include you?
Charges Dropped Against TikToker — Charges of violating an emergency protective order were dropped earlier this week against Coco Briscoe, the local TikTok personality whose accusations against a pair of local bars and their employees went viral on the video app. A judge previously ended the order, which Briscoe was accused of violating, citing a lack of physical threats. In the comments of one of her videos this week, Briscoe threatened to sue ARLnow for defamation for our coverage of her case. [Twitter, TikTok]
Buyer for Ballston Health Tech Company? — “Evolent Health Inc. saw its share price shoot up Wednesday after Bloomberg reported Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., the Illinois holding company that owns pharmacy chain Walgreens, is considering a purchase of the Arlington health system consultancy.” [Washington Business Journal]
Grand Opening for Fire Station No. 10 — “This morning we held our grand opening ceremony for new fire station 10 in @RosslynVA. This fire station provides modern accommodations for our firefighters and allows us to serve our community for decades to come. We are grateful to all who came out to share in this special day.” [Twitter, Patch]
Grant for Local Senior Program — “The Arlington Neighborhood Villages program has received a $30,000 grant from the Community Care Corps to support its mission to help older adults in Arlington age in place while staying connected with the community. The funding will assist the social-safety-net organization in partnering with Culpepper Garden and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to bring services to residents of their apartment communities.” [Sun Gazette]
How Local Nonprofits Faced the Pandemic — “The new report, Safety Net Arlington: rising together to meet historic needs for our community, is told through the voices of the 21 nonprofit leaders in Safety Net Arlington and through the lens of how they worked collaboratively with each other and the County to face unprecedented levels of need through the first 18 months of the pandemic and the economic and racial justice crises.” [Arlington Community Foundation]
New Gym Open in Bailey’s Xroads — “Gold’s Gym is now open at 5718 Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads. There will be a grand opening on Oct. 9, noon-1 p.m., with a ribbon-cutting, food, membership deals, free classes, and prizes for members, including those who sign up on that day. The gym has relocated from its former location on Carlin Springs Road to the former HHGregg store.” [Annandale Blog]
Update on 9/30/21: Charges against Briscoe were dropped earlier this week.
Earlier: Celtic House Irish Pub on Columbia Pike says it “does not wish to embroil itself” in the ongoing saga involving a local TikTok personality.
The bar released a statement on its social media channels yesterday, in response to allegations traded between TikToker Coco Briscoe, who attracted a sizable following with her videos about dating in the D.C. area, and a bartender the business now calls “a former employee.”
While the statement suggests that the bartender who Briscoe accuses of harassing her is no longer employed by Celtic House, it does not specify the circumstances around her departure. The bartender previously testified in court, during a hearing about an emergency protective order she obtained against Briscoe, about being “terrified” of the social media personality and her devoted followers.
“I’m afraid to be in my house. I’m afraid to be in this courtroom with her,” the bartender testified. “I just want to be left alone and don’t want attention.”
The judge allowed the protective order to expire, suggesting that it should not have been issued by a county magistrate in the first place due to a lack of evidence of legitimate physical threats, but Briscoe is still facing a misdemeanor charge for allegedly violating it by continuing to post about the situation on TikTok. She is next due in Arlington General District Court in two weeks, on Sept. 23.
Briscoe says the bartender is among a group of people, including employees of two Columbia Pike bars, who “bully, stalk and harass” her, making her feel unsafe in her neighborhood.
The Celtic House statement references at least some of Briscoe’s specific claims, which she has repeated in many of her dozens of TikTok posts over the past month — namely that video taken of Briscoe riding her bike near one of the bars, along with derogatory comments about her, were shared in a group chat.
“It would be improper to further comment… or to engage persons who have attacked the Celtic House, or the reputation of its owners and staff,” the statement says, before adding: “To be clear, the Celtic House does not condone the filming of any patron by employees, nor the public dissemination of pictures or comments on the actions of its patrons, except where such matters are required by, or, in furtherance of some interest of law enforcement or required as part of a civil or investigative action.”
The bartender in turn testified in court that it is Briscoe who has been the aggressor, weaponizing her following to harass her and others via hundreds of phone calls, social media messages and online reviews. The video sent to the group chat, which Briscoe subsequently obtained, was intended as a warning to local restaurant employees about an erratic customer, the bartender said.
Briscoe, meanwhile, has continued to rail against the two bars — Celtic House and Rebellion on the Pike — and their employees in videos posted since her last court appearance. She has also levied various accusations against the Arlington County Police Department, ARLnow, the Washington Post, and online review site Yelp.
Celtic House, in its statement, asserted that its business has been unfairly targeted. The bar “does not tolerate, nor wish to participate in on-line posturing or bullying,” it said.
Celtic House’s owner has not responded to emailed requests for further comment.
A statement issued by Rebellion on the Pike last month insisted that the accusations against it were an “attempt to smear our business [that] has zero evidence and truth to it.”
The full statement from Celtic House is below.
Order in Briscoe Case Likely Unconstitutional — “A judge dismissed the protective order Wednesday, and two legal experts said such blanket bans on speech violate the U.S. Constitution. Yet [local TikTok personality Coco] Briscoe, who has filed her own police report, could still be guilty of a misdemeanor, in a case that shows how social media disputes can run out of control and into the First Amendment.” [Washington Post]
County Recruiting for New Mental Health Group — “Arlington County is seeking community members to join a stakeholder group that will help Arlington County Government implement the requirements of Virginia’s new Marcus-David Peters Act. The Act, which was signed into law in late 2020 by Governor Ralph Northam, will create a statewide mental health alert system, also known as Marcus Alert, to ensure behavioral health experts are involved in responding to people in crisis.” [Arlington County]
Amazon Touts Va. Investments — “Out of Amazon’s total dollars dedicated to infrastructure and compensation in Virginia, Northern Virginia has collected the vast majority — almost 84% — a tally of $28.5 billion from 2010 to 2020, company spokeswoman Emily Hawkins said… Amazon’s most recent tally of hiring for its Arlington second headquarters is 1,600 corporate employees, Hawkins said — an early step toward the company’s plans to hire at least 25,000 total by 2030.” [Washington Business Journal]
Recognition for County Code Enforcers — “The Arlington County Code Enforcement Section of the Inspection Services Division (ISD) is the first property maintenance enforcement agency in Virginia to obtain accreditation from the International Accreditation Services (IAS).” [Arlington County]