Tysons, VA

A rally will take place outside the First Baptist Church of Vienna Friday evening on Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.

“Many of us have been inundated by the news. We’ve watched the reports. We are in mourning,” Vernon Walton, the senior pastor at the church, said in a video. “We are upset as we’ve watched the death of George Floyd, as we watched the family of Breonna Taylor mourn, as we’ve watched the family of Ahmaud Arbery mourn. We mourn with them.”

Participants are asked to social distance, wear masks and bring signs. The “Juneteenth Rally of Remembrance” will offer time for prayer and protest to celebrate Black lives, according to the event description.

“Come expecting to be empowered by the fellowship by the brothers and sisters of our community,” Walton said in the video. “You don’t want to miss this experience.”

The rally is set to take place in the parking lot at 450 Orchard Street NW from 6-8 p.m.

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The Fairfax County NAACP plans to host a town hall Tuesday night on how to make police departments more accountable to their communities.

“As we watch protests and demonstrations on the streets of America, we look to move forward in our community by reforming police practices and holding police accountable to the community,” according to the event description.

Fairfax NAACP invited the police chief and sheriff in Fairfax County, along with the county’s prosecutor and elected officials, according to the Facebook event page.

Fairfax NAACP recently unveiled a series of public safety recommendations and will go over the proposals during the town hall.

Some of the ideas include:

  • removing the School Resource Officer (SRO) program
  • increasing data reports from the county’s police department
  • continuing the rollout of body-worn cameras
  • putting officer misconduct records in a public database
  • reviewing Fairfax County police’s use of force policy
  • preventing police from buying and using military weapons

The town hall follows global, anti-racism protests sparked by George Floyd’s death and a recent incident in Fairfax County where a white officer stun gunned an unarmed black man.

The town hall is scheduled to take place from 7-9 p.m. via Zoom, according to the Facebook event page.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

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(Updated 9:15 a.m.) Hundreds of people chanted and marched in a Black Lives Matter protest led by six McLean High School students on Wednesday.

The protest kicked off around 2 p.m. in the parking lot of McLean High School with passionate speeches from students across Fairfax County and local elected officials calling on students and adults to fight racism.

“It’s kind of crazy I have to tell people I shouldn’t be killed, but here we are,” one student speaker said, later adding: “I don’t want my last words to be, ‘Don’t shoot.'” I want them to be, ‘We did it.'”

The speeches touched on a common theme: the fervor of youth activism.

“Our generation is the one that is going to change the world for the better,” Kendall J., a rising senior at McLean High School, told the crowd. Speakers encouraged parents to better support their kids’ activism.

People with voter registration forms circulated the crowd, encouraging teens about to turn 18 to vote in the upcoming elections.

For safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic, participants tried to social distance by spacing themselves out in the parking lot. Face coverings were required, and an organizer cleaned the microphone between each speaker.

Participants shouted chants like “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” and “Black Lives Matter!” At one point, the participants responded to a prompt of saying “I love you” to the people standing closest to them.

After a short prayer moment, the protesters took to the streets, flooding Clearview Drive around 4 p.m. “There are so many people here,” one of the organizers said into his walkie talkie as the march began.

“No justice. No peace. No racist police,” a young child with an adult on the corner of Westmoreland Street and Clearview Drive said as the march headed northbound on Westmoreland Street. Several drivers honked and waved in support.

Tysons Reporter witnessed a moment that punctured the peaceful and passionate protest: a white male driving by the protesters on Westmoreland Street shouted out his window that all lives matter and that they should “cut the bullsh*t.”

The protest was one of several anti-racism events in the Tysons area sparked by George Floyd’s death and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Like several protests and rallies in Falls Church, the McLean protest drew a diverse crowd spanning different generations and races.

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Black Lives Matter Protest Today in McLean — “Six McLean High School students are planning a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest on Wednesday afternoon. The protest is scheduled for Wednesday (June 10) from 3-5 p.m. and will start at McLean High School.” [Tysons Reporter]

Helping Hand for Paws — “A Fairfax County Boy Scout wanted to earn his Citizenship In The Community merit badge by lending a helping paw. For his project, 11-year-old Jackson Hayken chose to help McLean-based Paws of Honor, which helps retired police and military dogs.” [McLean Patch]

Nordstrom Returns — “The Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack stores in Tysons will reopen for customers on Thursday, according to a company release.” [McLean Patch]

More on Stun Gun Incident — “Prosecutors in Fairfax County told a judge on Tuesday that Officer Tyler Timberlake, who has been charged with assault and battery after using his stun gun last week, shocked a man he mistakenly thought he recognized. Timberlake’s lawyer said the police officer believed the man he stunned was someone who he knew had a criminal past.” [Inside NoVa]

Vienna Officials Talk New Police Station — “Vienna Town Council members at a June 8 work session reaffirmed their intention to move ahead with the town’s largest capital project — a new police station — and expressed support for the project’s environmental and architectural features.” [Inside NoVa]

Corona Cough — “Jacob Gooch, a former state trooper assigned to patrol in Virginia’s Fairfax Division, allegedly sent a text to his brothers in mid-April that said he gave a Mennonite man a ticket and coughed on him ‘so he would spread Corona to the wedding they were going too.’… Jacob Gooch has since resigned from the Virginia State Police department.” [WJLA]

Policing Pledge — “City of Falls Church Mayor David Tarter signed Former President Obama’s Mayor’s Pledge calling for mayors, city councils, and police oversight bodies to address police use of force policies. At their June 8 meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to join the Mayor in taking this pledge.” [City of Falls Church]

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(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) As the Black Lives Matter movement sweeps across the world in response to George Floyd’s death, Fairfax County locals are taking to the streets to call for racial equality.

Already, there have been protests and marches in Reston, Falls Church and Vienna. An upcoming protest is slated to take place in McLean on Wednesday.

Tysons Reporter interviewed Sean Perryman, the president of the Fairfax NAACP, to gain insight into underlying issues in the community and how the group is advocating for solutions.

After graduating from the Vanderbilt University Law School and working as a civil litigator, Perryman decided to join the NAACP back in 2016 after Donald Trump’s election. Since becoming president in 2019, he has led the group to promote the NAACP’s mission to “ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.”

“I threw myself in because I didn’t like what I was seeing at the national level and wanted to get involved at the local level,” he said.

The Fairfax NAACP actually originated in the Falls Church area, which Perryman said is historically significant because the county government unjustly took land from Black owners in the area.

Though Fairfax County is thought of as a progressive and liberal area, “there is a history of violence here that often gets overlooked,” Perryman said.

Throughout the last several years, Perryman recalled several incidents of alleged police brutality and discrimination against Black individuals that he claims were overlooked by the public.

Just recently, a Fairfax County police officer was charged with three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery after using a stun gun on a black man, the Washington Post reported.

Fairfax County hired a research team to look into the use-of-force incidents by Fairfax County police after a study found a disproportionate impact on black individuals. The research team is expected to reveal its findings early next year.

“The use of force here is disproportionate here for the police department [against black and brown people],” he said, adding that it is still better than some surrounding jurisdictions.

How Photos Can Influence the Perception of Law Enforcement

Roughly a week ago at a Black Lives Matter rally in Vienna, Mina Salama captured a photo of Vienna Police Chief Jim Morris kneeling, maskless alongside hundreds of other protesters.

Though Salama said she didn’t know that the officer in the photo was the police chief at the time, she said the moment and his position intrigued her.

Tysons Reporter is working to schedule an interview with Morris to talk about the photo and will update this story.

“I thought it was great — he wasn’t in the middle of the crowd. He was doing it on his own and just really feeling like he was a part of it,” Salama said.

Perryman said he didn’t want to be “cynical” and possibly discredit Morris’ true intentions behind the image, however, he said he wants to see progressive policy changes instead of social displays of support. He added that “nice” images of police kneeling don’t always portray an accurate representation of a situation.

“I don’t care about police chiefs kneeling or holding Black Lives Matter signs. Get your officers in check,” he said. “Make sure they are not abusing people. Give us transparency and data. Make real change, and anything short of that can just be seen as a photo opportunity.”

The Vienna police chief photo happened on the spur of the moment,  Salama said.

Before Salama ultimately decided to post the photo on Facebook, she said she struggled with the decision but decided that the image helped to accurately describe the atmosphere at the event.

“I kind of went back and forth about posting the picture [on social media] because in a lot of communities it’s done as a photo opp and this was more organic,” she said. “Nobody promoted him.”

NAACP’s Demands for Reform

Perryman claims students of color and students with disabilities are taken into police custody disproportionally compared to their white peers in Fairfax County Public Schools.

“Sometimes these were for issues like disorderly conduct,” Perryman said. “What does this mean? For a kid, does that mean they were just being bad in school?”

Perryman said that Fairfax NAACP’s efforts have been able to reduce arrests in schools by 60%. Still, he wants to see more done: “I’ve always said we need to get the cops out of schools and put in more counselors.”

In terms of One Fairfax, Perryman said he thinks the policy is good for “looking at things through an equity lens,” but added that the county’s school board and Board of Supervisors have a long way to go before the policy is more than “lip service.”

“You can’t have One Fairfax when you have a Robert E. Lee High School, and the school is named after a Confederate general who wanted to enslave black people,” he noted as an example.

The Fairfax County School Board voted in 2019 to consider renaming seven schools, including Mosby Woods Elementary School, named after people with Confederate ties.

Recently, the school board resumed its process to consider renaming Robert E. Lee High School.

In the next several months, Perryman said that the group will continue to push for police reform at the county, state and national levels.

The NAACP wants to see qualified immunity eliminated, Perryman said. “It ensures trust in the system. If you have trust in the system, you don’t have people going through the streets looking for justice,” he said.

If elected officials are determined to enact changes, Perryman said new policies could be in place within a year. For a complete list of NAACP’s agenda items, people can visit the organization’s website.

Ways Community Members Can Support 

For people who want to keep rallying and showing up to protests, Perryman said that he hopes people will try to keep in mind precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing. Last week, Fairfax NAACP held a car rally where people could listen and participate in their cars.

If people want to support the NAACP, they donate or ask how they can be of service. Though some people requested that the NAACP help them organize rallies, Perryman said that isn’t the purpose of the group.

People can become better allies by educating themselves about systemic racism in American history, Perryman said.

“One of the best things to do is to Google the origins of policing,” he said. “Our policing system is relatively new and in the course of American history, the way we do policing originated out of slave patrols,” he said. “I think a lot of people are shocked by that.”

Perryman suggested books such as “Stamped From the Beginning” and “How to Be an Anti-Racist” both by Ibram X. Kendi, who runs an anti-racism center at American University in D.C.

“Historical context helps you to solve a problem and look at things in a different light,” Perryman said.

Photos courtesy Sean Perryman 

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Six McLean High School students are planning a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest on Wednesday afternoon.

Sophie T. told Tysons Reporter that they want the protest to “show our support for the BLM movement and speak out against racial injustice and inequality.”

The protest is scheduled for Wednesday (June 10) from 3-5 p.m. and will start at McLean High School. After some speakers, the protesters will march down Chain Bridge Road around 3:50 p.m.

According to the flyer for the event, participants are encouraged to bring water and social distance. Masks will be required.

Sophie said that they are expecting a “decent turnout” and have invited local religious leaders to march and pray with the crowd.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

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The Walmart in Tysons has been closing early due to the protests against racism and police brutality, store employees say.

Two employees said the store (1500 Cornerside Blvd) has been notified by higher-ups at the “last minute” about closing at 5 p.m. Usually, the employees and managers don’t know how late the store will stay open until around 4 p.m. each day.

Shoppers looking to visit the store in the evening should call around 4:15-4:30 p.m., one employee advised. Walmart’s website does not mention the store’s hours early closings.

The store will likely close at 5 p.m. tonight (Friday), the employee said.

Due to the threat of looting, some Walmart stores have been closing early or temporarily closed last Sunday around the country. In Virginia, Walmart stores in Stafford County have been closing early at 5 p.m., Potomac Local News reported.

Image via Google Maps

Hat tip to everyone who tweeted and tagged @tysonsreporter about this

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Hundreds of people flooded Park Avenue in the City of Falls Church calling for justice after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Two rising juniors at George Mason High School — Ariana H. and Sarah E. — organized the walk, joining the global protests and rallies over Floyd’s death. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder following a viral video showing his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, while three other officers at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

“We had been watching the protests going on around the country and wanted to bring it closer to home,” the organizers said in a statement to Tysons Reporter.

The walk started around 1:30 p.m. with participants meeting in West End Park for brief comments before marching. Protesters shouted “No justice! No peace!” Floyd’s name and other chants as they made their way down Park Avenue, peacefully escorted by the city’s police department.

“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! These racist cops have got to go!”

“Black Lives Matter!”

With the temperature hovering at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, medics stationed themselves along the route, and several people passed out water bottles.

Many residents lined the route, waving signs and photographing the march from their porches and front lawns. At one point, several workers at a nearby construction site took selfies with the protesters.

Ariana provided the following statement to Tysons Reporter ahead of the event:

Here’s our vision. Our community is often isolated from the injustices experienced in other communities. We are just two rising juniors at George Mason High School who wanted to raise awareness in our community and march in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all people who have lost their lives simply because of the color of their skin. As a community, we can do better.

As two non-black people, we wanted to give the floor to black people in our community and make sure their voices are heard. It’s time for us to be allies and actively work to dismantle the systemic racism that has plagued our country for far too long. We had been watching the protests going on around the country and wanted to bring it closer to home.

We have the privilege to opt ourselves out of these times, but that will not bring the change that is needed. We have a duty to listen to our black peers and educate ourselves because it is not enough to not be racist; we must be anti-racist.

The City of Falls Church will see another event sparked by Floyd’s death later this week. On Sunday, locals plan to host the Falls Church Justice for Black Lives Rally at Cherry Hill Park at 1 p.m.

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Obituary for Local Activist — “Barbara Cram, the dedicated and tireless community doer of good in Falls Church for decades, died at her home surrounded by her family Tuesday morning, according to a report from Sally Cole of the F.C. Chamber of Commerce, who was in direct touch with the daughter, Stacy Fierce.” [Falls Church News-Press]

New Unemployment Data — “Northern Virginia’s unemployment rate hit 10% in April as business shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic ricocheted through the economy.” [Inside NoVa]

Protests in Falls Church — Students are holding a unity walk today at 1:30 p.m. On Sunday, a Black Lives Rally will be held at Cherry Hill Park at 11 a.m. [Eventbrite, Facebook]

Silver Line Challenges in Tysons — “Shops and restaurants in Tysons have already begun slowly reopening as the region has eased coronavirus-related restrictions, including those at the massive Tysons Corner Center. But without Metro, many workers are left scrambling to change their commutes — and big companies in the area feel they can’t adequately construct plans for when to bring their employees back to the office.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Fairfax County’s top official, local police chiefs and elected officials for the City of Falls Church are stressing the importance of equity and justice as nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd continue.

A viral video captured Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

In a newsletter to constituents, Jeff McKay, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, stressed the county’s focus on equity with the One Fairfax policy, saying that he will soon announce ” a blueprint to double down on our commitments.”

“Angry and Disgusted”

McKay also addressed the recent protests in D.C. after reports on Monday of police using tear gas and rubber bullets to dispel protesters from the area around a church where President Donald Trump then posed for a photo.

“I’m angry and disgusted that today, for the third time in as many days, we saw peaceful protestors tear-gassed and shot with pellet guns as they chanted for peace and change,” McKay said.

McKay’s full statement:

To the Fairfax County Community,

Over the weekend, millions marched the streets across the United States mourning the death of George Floyd and rightfully protesting the injustices and systemic racism experienced by generations of African American men and women in this country.

I’m angry and disgusted that today, for the third time in as many days, we saw peaceful protestors tear gassed and shot with pellet guns as they chanted for peace and change. Simultaneously, COVID-19 continues to showcase and exacerbate the disparities that exist in our most vulnerable communities.

Now more than ever, we know it is the role of our local government to achieve true structural change in our communities. We in Fairfax County must honestly ask ourselves, what actions are we taking?; what voices are we lifting up?; and for me as your Chairman, are our policies affecting systemic change in our community?

We are lucky to live in Fairfax County. Our Government has a team of employees who dedicate themselves to making us better every day. Our residents are diverse and challenge us to do more. Each member of the Board of Supervisors believes that we can always improve.

It is our commitment to our diversity that created our One Fairfax policy, which makes equity a requirement and recognizes that disparity is a fact. The Board of Supervisors and School Board adopted it to ensure that it is intentionally applied to all the work we do – not just reflected on when we are in crisis.  In the coming days, I will announce a blueprint to double down on our commitments.

We have work to be done. In the days, weeks, and months ahead of us, we will continue to listen, encourage healthy dialogues, and have the courage to fight for what’s right.

“Undo Culture of Racism”

Falls Church’s City Council and City Manager Wyatt Shields released a joint statement, saying that they “re-affirm our values of fairness and equal opportunity for all.”

“Mr. Floyd’s death lays bare once again, a long troubling truth that minorities in this country disproportionately experience violent and fatal encounters with police,” the statement said. “It is a truth we all must confront.”

They said they are committed to working to “undo the culture of racism,” along with promoting justice and peace. The statement did not elaborate on how the city officials plan to tackle it.

Local Law Enforcement Weigh In

Local law enforcement heads have recently talked about the role communities play in shaping police departments.

A letter to the community from Falls Church Police Chief Mary Gavin stressed that community trust is the most “sacred” part of police work.

Gavin then shared how the city’s police department strives to reinforce equality: taking the words “citizen” and “resident” out of policies, focusing on diverse hiring and striving for inclusiveness with their practices. She also called for a structural change that goes beyond firing “bad actors.”

“When public servants fail us by abusing the authority invested in them by the community they have sworn to protect and serve, it destroys trust and partnerships, the fabric of our community,” Gavin said.

On Friday, Fairfax County Police Department Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. talked about the police department’s community policing efforts and addressed eroding trust in law enforcement.

“We shall have faith the local and federal justice systems will navigate toward justice for the Floyd family, the communities impacted, and our entire nation,” he said. “However, we must be mindful there is a healing process where righteous anger needs to be constructively exercised through the right to free speech.”

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

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