This has been a very difficult week in our nation and in our County. On top of the spreading pandemic we have seen: the graphic murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25th; the continuing anger and rage across the country at yet another such murder; the violent break up of a largely peaceful protest at Lafayette Park on Monday so that the President could have a photo op; and the withdrawal of our Arlington police from the Park because of the misuse of their presence. (Please see the Board’s letter condemning Mr. Floyd’s murder.)
I’ve heard from many of you about our police presence at Lafayette Park on Monday. I think we’ve all seen horrific videos of what happened. Unlike the U.S. Park Police shields that were labeled “Police,” Arlington police shields were blank. Despite this, many of you recognized our police from “ACPD” on their helmets and have written to the Board about this, but many of you have not. I thought it might be helpful for me to share with you the basic letter the Board is sending to those who write in. It is below and contains a link to our statement, which is more detailed.
I hope this is helpful for you and welcome comments. I read all comments I get, but must let you know that I’m behind on responding at the moment because of the extraordinary level of correspondence I am receiving both at home and in the office.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions,
On behalf of my colleagues on the County Board, thank you for sharing your concerns with us about the deplorable use of Arlington County Police officers to clear the area around Lafayette Square before a 7 p.m. curfew went into effect on Monday, June 1. Your letter has been shared with each member of the Board.
We share the dismay and shock that you and many other residents have expressed that Arlington County Police officers were among the law enforcement officers using force to disperse peaceful protesters who were voicing their outrage at the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
Our officers, at the request of the U.S. Park Police and under a long-standing mutual aid agreement, were deployed to the District to help protect the rights and safety of everyone. Our police have been providing this kind of assistance to the Park Police for years, during events like inaugurations and large peaceful demonstrations. The Park Police similarly aid us with large events in Arlington, like the Marine Corps Marathon or during crises, like the 9-11 attack.
Unfortunately, on Monday evening our police officers were suddenly part of a forceful effort to push back a large crowd that included many peaceful protesters. They had no idea this action was meant to clear a pathway for the President’s photo op at St. John’s Church. As soon as we learned our police were being used in an action that endangered them and others and abridged the rights of legitimate, peaceful protesters we ordered them to return to Arlington.
We issued a statement on Tuesday, June 2 with more detail on why our police were deployed to the District of Columbia on Sunday, May 30, and why the County took the extraordinary action Monday night, in the immediate aftermath of the police action at Lafayette Square, to withdraw them. If you have not already done so, you may want to take a moment to read that statement.
My Board colleagues and I want to assure you that the punitive policing that took place Monday night around Lafayette Square is at odds with the community policing practiced by our officers in Arlington. Arlington greatly values our mutual aid obligations. We will re-evaluate those agreements to ensure that they achieve the goal of supporting neighboring jurisdictions and agencies in fulfilling their lawful mission of protecting public safety and the health and well-being of all.
Libby Garvey, Chair
Arlington County Board