Arlington neighborhood rallies as police investigate possible hate crime

Michael Hemminger, President of the Arlington Chspter of the NAACP (L) Wanda Younger, James Younger talk after Friday’s rally in Arlington. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

After news that graffiti that included swastikas and a racial slur appeared outside several homes in Arlington, Virginia, a group of residents held a rally to support each other and make clear that hate-related acts are not welcome in their community.

Friday morning, dozens of residents gathered outside the Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ in the Yorktown neighborhood. Mike Cantwell, President of the Yorktown Civic Association, stood before the attendees to say “hate has no place here,” and urged the crowd to repeat it together.

The idea, Cantwell said, was to “make it clear that this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable.”

“We also hope that we’re going to be able to find the perpetrators,” he said.

While he said there should be “consequences,” Cantwell said the focus — as far as he’s concerned — isn’t about “punishment, it’s about understanding what’s motivated” the people behind the vandalism.

Kathy Dwyer, senior pastor at Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ, said the vandalism is painful for a community that prides itself on being open, inclusive and prizing diversity.

“These acts of vandalism really speak to how there is this hate and racism running underneath the surface,” of the community. “And it’s important that we confront it.”

Michael Hemminger, president of the NAACP of Arlington, spoke at the rally and said he was gratified to see the response from the community. He said people concerned about hate-related incidents can take action and “not just be a bystander, and not just be an ally.”

Hemminger said people can “use whatever tools, resources and privilege” they may have “to rise up against any form of hate. That’s how we begin to break it down.”

Monique Bryant, who grew up in Arlington and is executive director of a group called Challenging Racism, agreed with the idea that just voicing disapproval of racism isn’t enough.

“We have to think about education, and preventive measures, and dialogue.”

Bryant, who is Black, said: “I’m just one generation from desegregation … so it really relates to home.”

Rabbi Jeff Saxe, of Temple Rodef Shalom, said the spirit of Friday’s rally demonstrated empathy within the community.

“I definitely think this group was united in the message that hate targets all of us, and that we all have to stand together,” Saxe said. “I think it’s a message that we have to bring to our whole community.”

Friday, Arlington County police said the case remains under investigation and they urged anyone with information to contact them at the department’s tip line at 703-228-4180 or via email.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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