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A 27-year-old Texas man was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison today for his role in calling in a bomb threat to Alfred Street Baptist Church, as well as other “swatting” incidents against a U.S. Cabinet member, journalists and Old Dominion University.

John Cameron Denton of Montgomery, Texas, a leader with the Atomwaffen Division neo-Nazi group, participated with three others in at least 134 swatting attacks around the country between October 2018 and February 2019. He pleaded guilty last year after being arrested in a sting operation to committing an offense against the United States and interstate threats to injure.

Alfred Street Baptist Church was targeted on November 3, 2018, because it has a mostly Black congregation. A then-U.S. Cabinet official living in Northern Virginia was also harassed in 2019, as well as two swatting incidents at Old Dominion University in 2018.

Swatting is a harassment technique where the caller deceives first responders at targeted locations.

“In each instance, conspirators selected the targets and called emergency dispatchers with false claims of pipe bombs, hostage takings, or other violent activity occurring at the targeted locations,” according to the DOJ. “As a result of these swatting calls, police were dispatched to Old Dominion University and the Alfred Street Baptist Church, and individuals in each location were required to shelter in place while the bomb threats were investigated.”

During the sting operation, Denton admitted to personally choosing to “swat” the New York City office of ProPublica and an investigative journalist at the publication who published information on his identity and connection to the group. Denton also told the undercover officer that he used a voice changer when making the calls and that he hoped to be “raided”, because his arrest would be good for the image of the Atomwaffen Division.

“The reprehensible conduct in this case terrorized communities across our Nation, as innocent Americans simply tried to attend school, practice their faith, and exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a statement. “The defendants caused irreversible trauma to the victims of these hate-based crimes. This case sends an unmistakable message that those who target individuals because of their race, religion, or any other form of bias, will be identified, apprehended, and brought to justice.”

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The largest festival for historically black colleges and universities in the country is going virtual, and all application fees have been waived for this year’s annual event.

The Alfred Street Baptist Church HBCU Festival has been held annually since 2003, and the church is calling for high school students and parents to register. The festival is on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Only about 150 people attended the first festival, despite a massive snowstorm. Last year, more than 70 HBCUs were in attendance, and the event cost $5 per person and was held before the pandemic at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland.

“Over 70 HBCUs will offer onsite admission, choral & instrumental auditions, waived application fees, virtual workshops & much more,” the church said on Facebook.

Photo via Facebook

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Morning Notes

ACT for Alexandria Calls COVID-19 a Racial Issue, Sends $900K to Nonprofits — “To work towards a community where all Alexandrians have an equal chance of living prosperous, fulfilling lives, we must work together to address systemic racism. That is a tall order. But together we can make a difference. Your support of the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund is an important step. That support allows our community to better respond to the needs of our neighbors facing overwhelming challenges.” [ACT for Alexandria]

Beyer Finds Fault in Indicted Fairfax County Police Officer — “This officer’s actions were unjustified, and he failed his oath to protect and serve. Body-worn camera footage clearly shows he escalated the situation with unnecessary violence against an unarmed black man.” [Twitter]

Police Disproportionately Use Force Against Black Alexandrians — ” Force is used against black males more than any other group, according to numbers compiled by the police department and acquired through a public-records request… In the most recent report, which covers 2019, 54 percent of the instances of use of force was against African Americans. That’s significantly higher than the black population in Alexandria, which is 23 percent.” [Gazette]

Alexandria Black History Museum Executive Director Makes Statement on George Floyd’s Death — “All keepers of African American heritage pledge to forever say George Floyd’s name, preserve the history he represents, and educate the public about the millions of brilliant minds lost to hate in America.” [Zebra]

Alfred Street Baptist Church Pastor Marchin in D.C. on Sunday with NAACP — “We want to personally invite ALL believers to join Pastor Wesley and the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Collaboration with the NAACP for a Prayer Walk for Peace and Justice on this Sunday, June 14 starting at 6am ET. We’re gathering at the NAAMHC and walking to the newly named Black Lives Plaza, NW in Washington, DC. Visit our website to register.” [Facebook]

Joe Theismann’s Restaurant Reopens — “The restaurant will be open for take-out and delivery via online ordering at Theismanns.com, delivery via select third-party apps, and walk-in patio dining. The restaurant will debut an adjusted menu for lunch and dinner, and will be open Sunday through Thursday from 12 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 12 – 10 p.m.” [Theismann’s]

Hundreds Sign Petition to Rename T.C. Williams High School After Petey Jones — “Additionally, we believe the name should be changed to honor one of the men who participated in giving the school that reputation, and who worked as a longtime employee at T.C. Williams High School.  Petey Jones died in 2019 of prostate cancer.  We believe that T.C. Williams should be renamed after him.  Please sign this petition if you agree.” [Change.org]

New Job: Assistant Magazine Editor — ” Content creation and coordination for national trade association magazine, including reporting, writing, editing and contributing to monthly print edition (circulation 40,000) and weekly digital newsletters.”[Facebook]

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Morning Notes

Alfred Street Baptist Church Virtual Worship Service Gets 19K Views –“Thank you for this amazing word today!! God Bless!” [Facebook]

Hospital Nurses Play Games With COVID-19 Patients — “Inova Nurses are helping our patients any way they can during these challenging times, from medical attention to a friendly game of tic tac toe. #InovaHeroes” [Facebook]

Early Giving Begins For Spring2ACTion Fundraiser — “Because of the current crisis, organizations have had to cancel fundraising events and programs that generate revenue. Classrooms and theaters are dark, and programs are cancelled in adherence of social distancing guidelines. Many nonprofits are depleting their reserves to purchase emergency food and supplies for their constituents.” [Spring2ACTion]

Sales of Titan Senior Magnets and Yard Signs Going to Relief Fund — “Don’t have a senior but want to show your support? Buy a community sign! All proceeds will support the PTSA’s new initiative [the] Titans Care COVID Relief Fund!” [tcwallnightgradparty.com]

ALIVE! Thanks Community For Food Giveaway Support — “Huge THANK YOU to Old Blue BBQ for purchasing and donating 500 pounds of potatoes for this weekend’s Truck-to-Trunk food distribution! They came to help pack 4000 grocery bags, but when they realized there wouldn’t be enough produce, left and came back with fresh produce for Alexandria’s neediest.”[Facebook]

Alexandria Symphony Reschedules Performance — Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Alexandria Symphony has rescheduled its “Brandenburgs and Brew” concert to Friday, June 12, 2020. [alexsym.org]

Sales From Alexandria Restaurant Partners T-Shirts Going to Staff — “T-shirt sales end on Monday, April 6, so be sure to purchase yours today!” [Facebook]

Atlantis Pizzeria and Family Restaurant is Open For Carryout — “Jimmy and Bill are brothers who opened Atlantis 38 years ago. They have built up a loyal customer base that continues to support them during this difficult time. They remain open each day because they never want to disappoint their customers. They could use all the help they can get right now. Open for carry out only. Order a pizza and come pick it up. It’s easy. Plenty of room to keep your distance and they are keeping it clean as a whistle. Hope to see you soon!” [Facebook]

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Several local religious institutions are changing the way they host their services to try to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus’ spread in the D.C. region has been closely associated with religious gatherings, from Georgetown church where a pastor was infected to the Virginia Theological Seminary where Alexandria had its first identified case. As large social gathering places, churches nationwide are emptying as quarantine orders are ramping up.

Worshipping from home has become a new weekly reality for some Alexandrians. Many of Alexandria’s religious organizations are moving worship services to their websites or to social media apps like Facebook or Zoom:

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Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria is planning to once again host what is says is the largest Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Festival in the country this weekend.

The event is organized by the church but held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center (201 Waterfront St.), across the Potomac in National Harbor. It is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Jan. 25 from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

The event brings together high school students and over 70 HBCUs, according to the website, and many of the schools offer on-site admissions, interviews, and auditions with some application fees waived.

The festival “originated with humble beginnings of 150 attendees in 2003 and matured to 11,000 attendees in 2019 — making us the largest HBCU Festival in the nation,” the website says.

The festival also serves to help connect students with potential scholarship programs. To date, the organization says $20 million in scholarships have been awarded at the festival.

HBCUs scheduled to attend range from nearby institutions, like Howard University, to schools in places like Texas and Ohio.

“We offer 11 seminars packed with impactful information to prepare students and parents for a successful college tenure,” the church said on the event website, “from securing financial aid to finding your ideal career path.”

In addition to academic opportunities, planned programs include a drum line and step show.

Tickets to the festival are $5 per person or $50 for a group of 10 or more. While there are special passes for applicants, general attendees can come to enjoy seminars and talk to school recruiters.

Image via Alfred Street Baptist Church/Facebook

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