Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Levine Says Murder Suspect Should Have Stayed Behind Bars — “Simply put, I think the judge made a tragically wrong decision here.” [Blue Virginia]

Lynching Victim Honored in Old Town — “121 years to the day after a mob lynched young Benjamin Thomas, the successor of the Mayor who made a half-hearted plea for due process and the successor of the “City Sergeant” (@AlexVASheriff) who failed to project Benjamin, stood at the corner and laid wreaths in his memory.” [Twitter]

Eviction Proceedings Halted Until Next Month — “On August 7, Governor Ralph S. Northam (D-VA) announced that starting Monday, August 10, a statewide moratorium on eviction proceedings will go into effect. The moratorium, which passed by a 4-to-3 vote, runs through September 7.”  [Zebra]

School Board Approves Virtual Learning This Fall — “Students, unlike during the spring semester, will be graded on finished work. They will also receive simultaneous lessons in subjects, as if they were in the classroom.” [Zebra]

ACPS Kicks Off ‘Kindergarten Prep’ — “ACPS is adjusting the format of the traditional Kindergarten Prep summer session in response to the current pandemic.”
[Facebook]

Del Ray Company Donates Soap to Casa Chirilagua — “We are so grateful to Truly-Life Eco Gifts for donating 200 bars of handmade soap to Casa Chirilagua — even during these challenging times, our small businesses are so generous!” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Mostly clear. High, 92F, Low 73F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Automotive Finance Manager — “BMW of Alexandria has an opportunity for a motivated, hard-working, enthusiastic Finance Manager to join our team.” [Indeed]

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It was another busy week in Alexandria.

Our readers overwhelmingly responded to Sunday’s protest at the Alexandria home of acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and the story has more than 380 comments. This week also saw its first homicide, which occurred in the West End, in addition to a number of crime events in the Braddock area.

Not included in our weekly list is late-breaking news on Friday that Alexandria City Public Schools want a virtual-only school year starting in September. Residents have been waiting throughout the summer for the school system to make up its mind, and ACPS has conducted numerous virtual chats with students, parents and staff over the last several weeks.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Activists Protest at Alexandria Home of Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf
  2. BREAKING: Police Investigating Homicide in West End Residential Community
  3. Former APD Officer Peter Laboy Gets His Driver’s License Seven Years After Being Shot in the Head
  4. Just Listed in Alexandria
  5. Students and Residents Putting Daily Cover Over T.C. Williams High School Name
  6. BREAKING: Flooding Reported in Parts of City, AFD Responding to Multiple Emergency Calls
  7. Shots Fired Tuesday Night in Braddock Neighborhood
  8. Alexandria Delegate Wants City to Fire Officials or Police Who Espouse QAnon Theories
  9. Save the Tree Petition at T.C. Williams High School Garners Nearly 1,000 Signatures
  10. Man Injured in Violent Carjacking in Old Town
  11. COVID-19 Update: Deaths at 57, Case Count at 2,735 in Alexandria

Have a safe and fun weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Edited 1 p.m. — Alexandria Del. Mark Levine (D) said the City of Alexandria can and should fire any police officers or officials that subscribe to QAnon theories — a fringe movement rooted in theories about pedophilia rings and the Deep State.

In a back and forth exchange on Facebook, Levine said anyone who has information about anyone in law enforcement espousing beliefs related to QAnon — mainly centered around unsubstantiated claims about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pedophilia, and satanism worshipped at the highest echelons of power — should report it to their department head.

In a series of texts, Levine later elaborated on this position.

It’s quite simple. Libel is not protected speech. If your personal belief is that Hillary Clinton tortured children in the nonexistent basement of a DC pizza parlor and you share that belief publicly, you can and should be found civily liable and have to pay damages.

QAnon is designed to maliciously spread libel and slander. Not only is it legal to take down their bullshit, it is illegal not to!

…Now if QAnon taught something else, that there was a flying invisible spaghetti monster that ate unicorns and washed away your sins every time you eat two meatballs, that would be protected speech. Because it does not slander any real people.

Spreading libel is also civilly liable. Which is why you should never spread someone else’s poston Facebook unless you’ve independently checked to see if it’s true.

Now, I concede it’s not often prosecuted, but it is both illegal and morally wrong and that is why I always chastise anyone who sends me objectively false information.

Levine recognized that New York Times v. Sullivan which requires “plaintiff show that the defendant knew that a statement was false or was reckless in deciding to publish the information without investigating whether it was accurate,” but Levine argued that it is his sincere belief that QAnon is not accidentally lying about the conspiracy theories.

Other comments on the post were concerned that Levine’s proposal would violate the First Amendment and was akin to McCarthyism — a period in the 1950s when Sen. Joseph McCarthy led a campaign of investigations against alleged communists.

Levine had another run-in earlier this year with right-wing groups when he called the police on an armed protestor outside his home.

Craig Fifer, spokesperson for the City of Alexandria, said officials have a right to their beliefs provided it does not interfere with their work.

“Employees have the right to subscribe to the beliefs of their choosing, provided they do not act on their beliefs in such a way as to impede the performance of their duties or the City’s ability to serve the public effectively,” Fifer said. “Police Department policy prohibits employees from engaging in conduct that represents neglect of duty or is likely to bring discredit on the department. Any complaint alleging misconduct by an employee will be investigated, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if warranted.”

File photo of Del. Mark Levine, Facebook image via Justin Wilson/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Hunger Free Alexandria Has Urgent Need for Volunteers Today — “Urgent need for Thursday, April 23, 4:30-7:00 p.m. Hunger Free Alexandria is working with World Central Kitchen to feed our neighbors in need. Bring your mask and help with bagging pre-packaged food and distributing meals. Location is on Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria.” [Facebook]

State Legislators Reconvene in Richmond — “My “desk” at one of the most unusual legislative sessions in Virginia history. We begin at noon. You can watch us on the livestream. Virginia Transparency even during COVID-19!” [Mark Levine/Twitter]

Virginia Minimum Wage Increase Delayed to May 2021 — “Democrats had used the majorities they gained in last fall’s elections to push through an increase to the state’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage, scheduling it to rise in stages until it reaches $12 by 2023. The initial increase was to take place in January but now will be delayed until May 1, 2021; the later increases will not be affected.” [Washington Post]

IDA Hosting Stanford Virtual Career Fair Today — “The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) is a not-for-profit organization that operates three federally-funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) supporting federal decision making: two serving the Department of Defense and one serving the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President.” [Indeed]

Washington Post Features Warwick Village — “Comprising 600 red-brick townhouses, the neighborhood offers families and first-time home buyers the convenience of living close to the amenities of Alexandria and the District in a friendly setting. Different paint colors, landscaping and indoor renovations make each house unique.” [Washington Post]

Alexandria Economic Development Partnership Launches New Website — ” With a clean format and simple navigation, our new website is replacing both of our old ones to make accessing information easier for our community. It also showcases our new brand: Alexandria- the Business of Bold.” [Facebook]

St. Stephens & St. Agnes Alum Now A Nurse in New Orleans — “Dr. Elizabeth Bellino ’94 works in the ER in New Orleans and her husband is an Anesthesiologist. She shared: “In these times, it amazes me how many friends from SSSAS have reached out to support us, whether it is a text, an email, or an offer to send masks. Feeling the support of community and family allows us to keep working during these times. Keep up the good work of keeping us all engaged and feeling like a community once again!” [Facebook]

West End Business Association Hosting Stress Management Webinar at 11 a.m. — “Mara Benner, President/Founder of Four Directions Wellness, LLC, will talk us through the stress we are all under and offer suggestions for reducing and managing that stress so that we can be productive in our lives, with our families and four our businesses.” [WEBA]

Hops N Shine Hosting Virtual Beer Tasting at 8:30 p.m. — “From Väsen Brewing Company we’ll be trying their May Rakau DIPA and The Everything Floats on Pineapple. From our friends at Vanish we’ll be tasting their Ghost Fleet and Wraith.” [Facebook]

Junction Bakery & Bistro is Now Delivering — “Neighbors! The new Junction Delivery van is gassed up & ready to rollllll … We bring it to you: groceries, breads & pastries, family meals, beer & wine — and yes, even our new craft cocktails! Cheaper than Uber Eats!” [Facebook]

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Morning Notes

Alexandria COVID-19 Count Now At 20 — “AHD is identifying and contacting individuals who came in close contact with the confirmed cases. The close contacts will be asked to self-quarantine and actively monitor for fever and respiratory symptoms. If they start experiencing symptoms, they will immediately undergo testing. As a result of the AHD’s case investigations and expanded testing through private providers, the number of positive cases is expected to continue to increase.” [City of Alexandria]

City’s COVID-19 Fund Reaches $470K — “Thanks to your generous support, ACT for Alexandria and the City of Alexandria have begun to provide grants to the nonprofit organizations on the front lines of this crisis. As of this week, we have made $245,010 in grants.” [Zebra]

Levine Hosting Health Director in Virtual Monthly Meetup — “We will be hosting Mark’s Monthly Meetup virtually this Sunday between 1 and 3 pm. Likely through either Zoom or Facebook Live. Perhaps both if we can figure it out. Details to come.” [Facebook]

Beyer Laments U.S. Leading World With COVID-19 Cases — “Very, very bad: the United States now leads the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases. PLEASE STAY HOME.” [Twitter]

Fire Department Advises Against Overloading Power Strips — “If you’re teleworking to help #stopthespread, you’re probably using multiple electronic devices to keep up with your workload. To prevent an electrical fire, don’t overload your power strips.” [Twitter]

Chat Today With Martha Washington in Mount Vernon Live Stream — “Join us for our first Casual Friday Livestream, where we’ll do something new & different each Friday at 12:00 pm ET! This week, join us for a chat with young Martha Washington in the year 1769. Ask her your questions now, and we’ll start with those tomorrow on Facebook & YouTube.” [Twitter]

fibre space Moves to Online Shopping Only — “We will not be scheduling any additional in store private shopping appointments. If you are currently scheduled, your appointment is still on. Please feel free to shop via phone, web or virtual shopping on Zoom.” [Facebook]

Carpenter’s Shelter Thanks Supporters — “One of our biggest concerns amidst all of this turmoil, has been making sure we are able to keep our residents fed. In our current temporary location we do not have a stove, so we are reliant more than ever on our wonderful volunteers and donors to provide prepared food for our clients. And thanks to them, this concern thus far has been unfounded.” [Facebook]

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Morning Notes

Visit Alexandria Launches ‘ALX at Home’ — “Experience Alexandria’s restaurants, shops and attractions from the comfort of your own home… From unlimited ‘Ride it Out’ bike rentals to beer-to-go curbside pickup to FaceTime shopping, there are numerous ways to support the independent businesses that make Alexandria so special. Buy a gift card for a future date. Pick up a ready-to-go dinner to make at home. Tap into your creative spirit by taking a live stream writing workshop.” [Visit Alexandria]

Mark Levine Says It’s ‘Criminal’ to Congregate During Pandemic — “You must be unaware of the @GovernorVA‘s executive order. There are criminal penalties for going to a bar or restaurant tonight. If more than 10 people congregate, the restaurant can lose its license and folks can go to jail. ” the Delegate for Virginia’s 45th district wrote in an email.” [Twitter]

Former Police Chief Charles Samarra Passes Away — “Charlie was a beloved figure in the region’s public safety community. He will be missed by many, but his legacy of excellence and professionalism lives on.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Doctor Helps Homeless During Pandemic — “As far as street care, I don’t really feel comfortable having anyone else with me right now due to all the unknowns from coronavirus.” [WTOP]

Old Town Home and Garden Tour Canceled — The annual event was to be held on April 18, and has been canceled due to concerns about coronavirus. [Alexandria Living]

Driver Hospitalized After Car Flips on King Street — “Overnight, units from 206 and Arlington Station 109 worked to assist one patient from an overturned vehicle on King Street near Dawes Avenue. One patient was transported to an area hospital by Medic 206.” – [Twitter]

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A Republican official from Hopewell, Virginia drove to Alexandria this weekend for a small, armed protest outside Delegate Mark Levine’s home in Old Town.

Brandon Howard, chair of the Hopewell Republican Party and head of the gun group Right to Bear Arms Virginia, walked along the street outside of Levine’s house on Saturday, Richmond public broadcaster VPM first reported. He held a Virginia flag, a large gun, and a sign that said “withdraw HB 961,” referencing a bill Levine sponsored and the House of Delegates passed that would ban assault weapons in the state.

(The bill was shelved in the state Senate on Monday, in a move that made national headlines.)

In a ten minute video posted to the Right to Bear Arms Facebook page, Howard repeatedly stated that his intention was to protest peacefully, though the video also contained promises of retribution should the bill pass and guns start being confiscated.

“Mark Levine is a traitor to this nation,” Howard said in the video. “Mark Levine is a tyrant. And we know what’s on our flag. It translates very simply: Thus all tyrants, with lady liberty crushing the tyrant. We all know what that means. Mark Levine, you know what that means. All those Democrats in the House and Senate, you know what that means.”

Levine said when he found out about the protest, he called the police.

“It’s never happened [to me] before,” Levine said. “Having a man outside my house with a gun? No, that hasn’t happened.”

Levine noted that Howard had previously carried weapons through the Alexandria Farmer’s Market.

“His goal is to terrorize our community,” Levine said. “His goal is to terrorize me… I have long argued that guns have three legitimate uses: self-defense, hunting and target shooting. This guy was not hunting, except maybe me, it was not in self-defense… and he wasn’t target shooting. It’s clear that his intent is to coerce, threaten or intimidate.”

Howard said that if all else failed at the soapbox and ballot box, he and others would reach for the “cartridge box.”

“The last thing we want is to shed blood on our own soil,” Howard said. “That’s not to say that will never happen… but unfortunately the way Democrats are doing things today it’s becoming a very real reality that we may see bloodshed on our own soil because of these tyrants sitting in Richmond.”

“Mr. Mark Levine, don’t send the innocent to come do your dirty work, I want you personally to come try and take my gun,” he added. “If you are the one, or whoever you send are the one, beware. I hope you kiss your wife, I hope you kiss your husband, I hope you kiss your children goodbye before you come and try to take mine. Because that’s the last time you will ever have kissed them in your life. You’re only getting my gun one way, and that’s with the business end.”

There was no violence at the protest, but Levine said he hopes Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter will press charges.

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Passing the Equal Rights Amendment, decriminalizing marijuana and giving localities the power to move Confederate monuments — those are just a few of the pieces of legislation that local Democrats will unveil over the next two months in the Virginia General Assembly.

As Democrats prepare to arrive in Richmond with complete control of all branches of Virginia’s government, there are a slew of bills that will result in serious changes to the way the Commonwealth does business.

Del. Charniele Herring (D-46th) is the incoming House Majority Leader — the first African American woman to hold the post. Herring will also chair the Courts of Justice Committee, and said she is confident that ERA will pass, in addition to pot decriminalization and gun reform.

The latter, however, has some local Democratic members questioning what gun legislation will, in fact, pass. Herring suggested that it can, but as long as Democrats don’t overreach.

“I think our challenge is to be disciplined with ourselves, and it’s our time to govern and we’re up to the challenge,” Herring said on Sunday at her annual fundraiser at Tempo Restaurant.

Herring’s story is unique. A U.S. Army brat, she and her mother moved into a homeless shelter in Alexandria. Mayor Justin Wilson congratulated Herring said that “great things” are expected in this year’s session.

“There is no better person to be going down to Richmond and leading our new majority caucus,” Wilson said. “This is an exciting time for Virginia, with Democratic control of the House of Delegates and the state senate.”

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th) chairs the Gun Violence Prevention Caucus, and said he will support Gov. Ralph Northam’s package of gun-related bills that would reduce magazine sizes, keep firearms from public property, register firearms and ban assault weapons. He also supports universal background checks, red flag laws and child access prevention.

“One of the bills that will be challenging at least is banning assault weapons,” Ebbin said at a fundraiser in Alexandria on Friday, Jan. 3. “What we’re going to do is rather than say we’re going to take away the guns you already own, my proposal is going to be that if you already own a weapon that you can keep it but you have to register it.”

Del. Mark Levine (D-45th) will introduce at least 45 bills, many of which failed in previous sessions. Among the legislation he’s proposing are bills to reverse an antiquated law prohibiting sex outside of marriage, a bill that would expunge a single non-violent drug offense from criminal records, and, should marijuana be decriminalized, Levine is proposing a bill that would expunge any marijuana-related offenses from someone’s record.

Levine is also proposing a raise in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 and a bill that would require landlords evicting tenants to notify tenants in English and Spanish. He also supports a bill that would allow localities to determine the replacement of Confederate statues throughout the state.

“We’re making history for the first time in 26 years,” Levine said at his own fundraiser on Sunday, adding that his bills range in complexity. “Some are really big progressive ideas, you’ve been waiting a long time for some small fixes in the wall, and everything in between, and I think you’ll see it’s quite a range.”

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