ARLINGTON, VA — More than 1,000 people gathered outside the Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse Plaza Saturday afternoon to call for greater accountability of police departments across the country, including Arlington's own. Prior to the rally, protestersto Ballston and then to the courthouse area.
At the rally, organized by the Arlington Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, speakers emphasized that the countless rallies and marches that are happening in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis are the result of a system that has failed people of color.
"Our communities have been in a state of emergency for a long time, long before COVID-19 was brought to light. We are done dying," Julius "JD" Spain Sr., president of the Arlington NAACP, said in a speech. "Today's rally is about accountability, is about transparency, is about policy, changes in policy."
The NAACP said the first step in a long process toward gaining the trust of the African American community would be for the Arlington County Board to create a police civilian review board and to require body cameras for the Arlington County Police Department.
"If we don't get a civilian review board here in Arlington County, we've got a problem," Spain said. "If every cop, law enforcement officer in this county is not wearing body cams, we've got a problem."
Earlier in the week, the Arlington County Police Department was identified as one of the police agencies that participated in the clearing of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park with tear gas and violent methods ahead of President Donald Trump's photo-op at a local church. Arlington County police officers also had been working with the D.C. government to quell protests prior to the incident in front of the White House.
After the Lafayette Square incident, Arlington County officials ordered the county's police officers to withdraw from D.C.
At the rally, one of the protesters, in an interview with Patch, brought up the phrase “the Arlington Way,” a common reference to civic engagement in county politics. She said the movement for racial justice needs to become ingrained in the Arlington Way.
Arlington's leaders and its residents need to define the Arlington Way by talking to people of color. "Find your local angry black woman. She will tell you how she feels," the protester, who declined to be named, told Patch. "That may not be the whole story of what black Americans feels today. But you absolutely need this perspective."
After the rally, protesters began to march from the Courthouse area in Arlington across Memorial Bridge into D.C., where thousands of people have gathered to demand justice for the victims of police violence and greater police accountability.