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Morning Notes

Fairfax High Students Walk Out in Protest — “Hundreds of students from Fairfax High School…walked out in protest Thursday morning to show their support for a student they say was attacked in an Islamophobic incident. A Change.org petition calling on Fairfax school administrators to do more about the incident, which happened Tuesday, has garnered more than 3,600 signatures.” [WTOP]

Virginia Budget Plan Unveiled — For the 2022-2024 state budget, his final as governor, Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed about $2.1 billion in tax cuts, including an elimination of the 1.5% state grocery tax. Expenditures include pay raises for public school teachers, state employees, and law enforcement and corrections officers, along with $2.8 billion for capital improvement projects. [The Washington Post]

Program Offers Free Lyft Rides Over Holidays — “The SoberRide program offering free Lyft rides to keep would-be drunk drivers off the roads will kick off on Friday, Dec. 17. The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program holds the SoberRide in partnership with Lyft during the winter holiday season as well as St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day and Halloween, other high-risk holidays for drunk driving.” [Patch]

Vienna Theatre Company Cancels Shows — “Due to illness, the cast and crew for ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is regrettably cancelling this weekend’s performances (Dec. 17, Dec. 18 and Dec. 19). All tickets for cancelled shows will be fully refunded. If you have any questions, please call 703-255-6360.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Pizza figured into a citizen’s unsettling encounter on the W&OD Trail in Vienna last week, as reported to police (via Heather Barnes/Unsplash)

On the eve of Election Day, the political agitation that has animated many a recent school board meeting, both locally and nationally, reportedly spilled out onto the streets of Vienna.

According to the Vienna Police Department’s latest weekly crime round-up, officers responded to the 500 block of Maple Avenue West at 3:39 p.m. last Monday (Nov. 1) after getting a report of a possible assault involving a business owner and political protestors.

Covering the week of Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, the report says witnesses told police that “a Virginia-based parents group” was behind the protest:

Officers responded to the report of a possible assault between political protestors and a business owner. The business owner advised that he got into a verbal altercation and was pushed by one of the protestors. Other witnesses advised that the rally was being held by a Virginia-based parents group and that the business owner pushed his way into their group and began verbally abusing them.

The report doesn’t contain any further details about what the group was protesting.

Last week, police also responded to a resident’s report that a driver “yelled derogatory remarks and made a profane gesture” at her children while they were waiting for their school bus.

The incident occurred around 7 a.m. on Wednesday (Nov. 3) at a bus stop on the corner of East Street and Hine Street SE.

That same day, another citizen reported an unnerving encounter that occurred between 8 and 8:44 p.m. on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail near the 100 block of Maple Avenue:

A citizen reported a suspicious event on the bike trail when a man repeatedly offered him a pizza and produced what appeared to be a gun when the citizen refused. The man then ran westbound on Maple Avenue. The citizen appeared to be emotionally disturbed but refused police assistance. Officers searched the area and found no one matching the description of the man the citizen described.

Photo via Heather Barnes/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Two Injured in Fire at CIA HQ — Two CIA employees were transported to a hospital for possible smoke inhalation after a fire broke out at the agency’s headquarters in McLean on Saturday (Oct. 2). The “small building fire” was extinguished by sprinklers around 12:30 a.m., according to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, and the cause hasn’t been determined. [WTOP]

Parents Protest Outside McAuliffe Campaign Office — Fairfax County police responded to a protest of about 20 people outside Terry McAuliffe’s campaign office on Jones Branch Drive in McLean on Friday (Oct. 1). A passerby told Tysons Reporter that the parents, who police said “were peacefully demonstrating,” were “incensed” by the Democratic gubernatorial nominee saying in a recent debate that he doesn’t think “parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Founders Row Welcomes First Residents — “After a decade since the project was first proposed, the first 20 residents began moving in this Monday [Sept. 27] to the massive 4.3 acre Founders Row development project at the intersection of W. Broad and N. West Street in the City of Falls Church.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tysons Corner Bloomingdale’s Burgled — “COMMERICAL BURGLARY: 8100 Tysons Corner Center (Bloomingdales), 9/27/21, 4:40 a.m. Someone forced entry into the business and took property.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

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George Mason University students and employees hold a protest regarding the treatment of janitorial staff by the contractor LT Services (Photo courtesy 32BJ SEIU)

A cleaning services contractor based in Merrifield is undergoing an audit ordered by George Mason University in response to allegations of labor law violations.

In recent months, LT Services Inc. (2815 Hartland Rd.) and its subcontractors have faced numerous complaints by workers who say they have experienced poor working conditions, including delayed payments and retaliation for engaging in union activities.

GMU President Gregory Washington announced on Feb. 22 that, after conducting an initial review of the complaints against LT Services, which provides janitorial services at the university’s 220 buildings in Northern Virginia, he has ordered an outside audit of the contractor by the accounting firm Baker Tilly.

“George Mason University values everyone who works on our campuses, whether they are faculty, classified staff, student employees, or contractors. We hold high standards toward the treatment of everyone,” Washington said. “…I look forward to learning the results of what I expect will be a thorough, fair, and thoughtful audit.”

Washington added that Mason would not “offer any further public comment” until the audit is completed “in order to be fair to all involved.” A GMU spokesperson reiterated that sentiment, telling Tysons Reporter that Washington’s statement would be the university’s “only comment” on the issue.

LT Services declined to comment when contacted by Tysons Reporter.

While Mason’s audit is ongoing, the National Labor Relations Board is investigating LT Services and two of its subcontractors — Reyes Cleaning Contractors and Seth Ean Service — for allegedly engaging in unfair labor practices to shut down workers’ efforts to organize, according to documents provided by the Local 32BJ chapter of the Service Employees International Union, which filed the charges on March 9.

In its charging statement, SEIU states that LT Services promised workers at GMU a $2 raise and money to pay hospital bills in response to “protected concerted activities” and told a worker “to not discuss their working conditions with others.”

The charges against Reyes Cleaning accuse the company of interrogating employees and creating “more onerous working conditions” in retaliation for union-related activities. SEIU alleges that Seth Ean Service interrogated and intimidated workers, told them not to talk to union organizers, and disciplined a worker and reduced their pay for participating in union activities.

The three new cases come on the heels of two settlements won by SEIU on behalf of the contract cleaners at Mason. H&E Cleaning Service Inc., a subcontractor of LT Services, signed a settlement on Nov. 11 and again in January after the union accused the company of threatening and intimidating workers, sabatoging their work areas, and denying them compensation.

LT Services was also one of five companies required to pay back wages in 2016 after Montgomery County determined that they had violated its living wage laws.

SEIU expressed skepticism of the outside audit ordered by George Mason University, urging Washington to instead hire a new, responsible contractor immediately.

“Essential workers that keep Mason clean every day cannot wait for an audit to finish,” 32BJ SEIU said in a statement. “They have brought numerous allegations and violations against L.T. Services and their subcontractors to President Washington for nearly a year. President Washington cannot delay ensuring that these essential workers be treated with respect, especially in a global pandemic.”

Pressure on GMU to address concerns about the treatment of contract workers has been growing both internally and externally.

Several state elected officials, including Dels. Kathleen Murphy (D-McLean) and Mark Keam (D-Vienna), wrote a letter to Washington on March 15 urging the university to “ensure its contracted and subcontracted janitors, students, and broader community are kept safe and healthy during this pandemic by choosing to employ a responsible janitorial contractor.”

In addition, over 220 Mason faculty, staff, students, and alumni have signed a resolution from the American Association of University Professors’ GMU chapter expressing support for the janitors and calling for the adoption of a policy that would require contractors to give workers a living wage, benefits, and other rights.

“We don’t want to prejudge the audit, but we think that we already have enough information for what we think is the solution, and the solution is for Mason to adopt a responsible contractor policy,” GMU-AAUP interim president Tim Gibson, who teaches communications at Mason, said. “…If you want to contract with our institution, with our community, then you need to commit to treating your workers with fairness and respect.”

Along with forming a GMU Coalition for Workers’ Rights, GMU-AAUP joined SEIU for a “car caravan” protest at Mason’s Fairfax campus on Thursday (March 18).

“We hope the widespread outpouring of support for the janitors helps President Washington take seriously the trauma these essential workers have been through, while risking their lives to keep GMU safe,” 32BJ SEIU Vice President Jaime Contreras said. “Such an esteemed institution, focused on social justice, should simply hire responsible contractors. President Washington can and should utilize his power to ensure janitors a new employer that upholds the school’s values.”

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(Updated 5:05 p.m.) Police in the Town of Vienna were kept busy this week responding to reports that ranged from a political protest to ketchup-related vandalism.

The Vienna Police Department’s crime round-up for the week of Dec. 30 to Jan. 7 states that officers responded to “group of people protesting political issues in the street and on the sidewalk in front of a residence” on DeSale Street NW at 7:28 p.m. on Jan. 4.

While the report does not provide any additional details, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday (Jan. 5) that protestors had gathered outside the home of Republican Sen. Josh Hawley to decry the Missouri senator’s plan to object to Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Hawley had accused the protestors of vandalism and threats against his family on Twitter, but Vienna police described the scene as peaceful. The group dispersed when informed that they were violating local laws against picketing in front of a house, littering, and noise, according to the AP.

In a more innocuous event, police were summoned to the Historic Vienna Train Station (231 Dominion Rd.) on the morning of Jan. 4 when a Town of Vienna employee reported seeing “a red liquid on the south wall” of the station.

“It was determined that someone squirted ketchup on the wall,” the VPD says. “There was no permanent damage to the wall.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Officers with the Fairfax County Police Department have been deployed to Washington, D.C., as part of a region-wide emergency response to far-right extremists who have stormed the U.S. Capitol, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay’s office confirmed to Tysons Reporter.

Fairfax County has also opened its emergency operations center to Virginia State Police.

Earlier this week, McKay advised county residents to avoid visiting downtown D.C. as several right-wing groups planned to hold demonstrations to protest Congress’ scheduled certification of the November 2019 general election results.

Fairfax County police previously said they did not anticipate needing to assist D.C. authorities in managing the demonstrations. Like other law enforcement agencies in the D.C. region, the county has a mutual aid agreement in place for situations where additional help may be needed.

McKay’s full statement is below:

What is happening in Washington D.C. right now is nothing short of a coup. This is a dark day in American democracy and I am personally sad and angry. I’m hopeful residents of the county heeded our advice to stay home today.

We have deployed members of our police department and opened our emergency oerpations center ot Virginia State Police. Let us pray for their safety as well as the safety of the innocent people impacted. Our democracy will not be destroyed by violent, lawless mobs.

I’m in constant communication with County officials to ensure we provide as much help as possible and also protect our communities in Fairfax.

Photo via Sherry Xu on Unsplash

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Fairfax County police will not send officers to D.C. to assist with the First Amendment demonstrations set to take place tomorrow, police department spokesperson Sergeant Greg Bedor confirmed to Reston Now, Tysons Reporter’s sister site.

The region is anticipating thousands of Trump supporters to descend on the region to protest Wednesday’s Congressional certification of the presidential election. Since November, the president has made numerous unproven claims that the election was stolen.

Over the last several weeks, he’s also repeatedly encouraged supporters via social media to protest on January 6. One such tweet in December said, “Be there, be wild.” He even said he would be there himself.

Previous rallies in November and December both ended in violence, particularly after sunset.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay issued a statement yesterday advising residents to avoid the downtown area and to not engage with people potentially looking to incite violence. Arlington County has also disencouraged residents from going to D.C. to counter-protest.

Fairfax County police, along with a number of other local jurisdictions, have traditionally had mutual aid agreements in place with D.C. police, in case situations arise where help is needed.

However, Bedor says that he does not expect FCPD to be called into D.C. tomorrow. “The [D.C.] Mayor has arranged for other support, so our understanding [is] that’s been covered,” he says.

That other support is a reference to the D.C. National Guard being activated to provide traffic control and crowd management.

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Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and other public officials in the Washington, D.C., region are advising local residents to avoid the District’s downtown area over the next few days in anticipation of potentially volatile protests.

Multiple pro-Trump groups, including the far-right extremist Proud Boys, are expected to hold demonstrations in D.C. tomorrow (Wednesday), when Congress is scheduled to certify the Electoral College’s vote cementing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 general election.

Here is the full statement from McKay’s office:

On Wednesday, January 6, demonstrators will be protesting in Washington DC and there are concerns over safety.

While the District will be doing all they can to keep demonstrations peaceful, my regional colleagues and I encourage our residents to stay safe and avoid the downtown area and not to engage with those seeking violence.

We know the election is over, the votes have been cast, states have certified results, lawsuits have been dismissed, and a winner has been named.  It is time for our normal, democratic, peaceful transition of power and the will of the electorate to be honored. At this time of unprecedented distrust in the electoral process, despite every assurance otherwise, engagement will only inflame a volatile situation.

Photo via Sherry Xu on Unsplash

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An upcoming protest in Merrifield is part of nationwide mobilization at post offices across the U.S.

From Alaska to Florida, 602 volunteer-led protests are set to take place at 11 a.m. local time tomorrow (Saturday) to demand Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s resignation and “save the post office from Donald Trump.”

The protests are in response to DeJoy’s cost-cutting measures for the financially-rocky United States Postal Service, which critiques said could delay the expected surge of mail ballots for the November election.

After facing a backlash, DeJoy said he will pause the changes until after the election. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly slammed mail-in ballots, said he opposes more funding for the USPS because of mail-in voting.

The protest at the Merrifield post office (8409 Lee Hwy) will be wheelchair accessible, according to the event description. Protests will also take place in Reston and Arlington.

The nationwide mobilization is backed by several unions and organizations, including MoveOn, Service Employees International Union, the NAACP, the Working Families Party, The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, American Federation of Teachers, Indivisible and Vets for the People.

Organizers are asking participants to wear face coverings, remain 6 feet apart from each other, bring hand sanitizer and keep the protests peaceful and nonviolent.

“Individual hosts are responsible for compliance with their own local laws and event requirements (including orders limiting the sizes of events),” the event description said.

Image via Google Maps

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Town Hall Tonight — Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand has been hosting weekly town halls to talk about the back-to-school plans and answer questions from the community. The town hall tonight will be live-streamed from 6-7 p.m. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Silent Auction Ends Today — The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce started its virtual silent auction last Wednesday. Now, the event ends today at 11 p.m. So far, the auction has raised a little over $1,800, with the goal of hitting $2,500. [32auctions]

Blood Drive on Thursday — Inova is holding a blood drive at the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department Hall (400 Center Street S.) on Thursday from 1-7 p.m. [Inova]

Protest in McLean — “Youth activists gathered outside the McLean home of U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday morning, protesting what they called corruption in his role as the federal government’s top law enforcement officer.” [Patch]

Local Student Plays Golf Championship — “As one of the youngest players in the talented and experienced field, Kelly Chinn maintained a steady calm to record a strong finish during the 36-hole stroke-play portion of the 2020 men’s U.S. Amateur Golf Championship.” [Inside NoVa]

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