Local Residents Protest Treatment of Migrant Children Outside Caliburn Headquarters

Local residents involved with Herndon-Reston Indivisible, a local progressive advocacy group that formed after President Donald Trump’s election, protested outside a company that operates shelters for migrant youth.

Roughly 15 residents gathered on Friday, August 2 outside the headquarters of Caliburn International Corp., a for-profit operator of migrant youth shelters and private prisons.

Activists said the protest was intended to “express their dismay over the adverse shelter conditions, Caliburn’s role and the administration’s overall immigration policy.”

Herndon-Reston Indivisible formed to resist the “Trump agenda while electing Democrats who support our values of transparency, inclusion, tolerance and fairness.”

Caliburn is the parent company of Homestead, a federal childrens’ detention center that operates as a for-profit in Florida. Media reports from mainstream news outlets have raised questions about the treatment of children in these temporary shelters.

According to NPR, the average daily cost for caring for a child in these facilities is about $775 per day — much more than the average cost of housing a child at standard shelters.

The Homestead shelter currently holds 2,450 unaccomplanied migrant children between the ages of 13 to 17.

The advocacy organization plans to continue protests at the headquarters of Caliburn every other week.

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‘Lighted Letters’ at Kremlin Annex Protests Mark One-Year Anniversary

For the last year, local residents have held up large, lighted letters against the sky in front of the White House as part of the Kremlin Annex protests — a dramatic visual protest that has received national notoriety.

Protests began on July 16 last year when President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Protestors took issue with Trump’s acceptance of Putin’s assertions that he did not interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Activists from Herndon-Reston Indivisible organized and sent teams of volunteers carrying lighted letters with key messages to the White House.  For the first four months of the initiative, protestors held up lighted letters every night. In mid-November, the initiative switched to three days per week. Following its one-year anniversary, letters light up the sky on Saturdays from 7:30-9 p.m.

Herndon-Reston Indivisible is a grassroots advocacy organization that aims to mobilize a progressive network to resist the Trump agenda, according to its website.

Organizers behind the visual protest said they were surprised by the attention received by their advocacy.  The visual appeal of their protest has earned a nod by the Grey Lady, the Washington Post, USA TODAY and Newsweek.

“In effect, they become our voice — and a loud voice at that,” said Nan Dearborn, a co-lead of the lighted letters initiative. “You just can’t miss the message when you have activists holding ‘treason’ or ‘corrupt’ or ‘racist’ in giant lighted letters right in front of the White House.”

The first night, volunteers held up letters spelling “liar” — a visual display that HRI co-founder Heidi Zollo said was “an instant hit.”

Since then, volunteers have made roughly 45 letters to spell out anything at short notice. The leaders of the initiative — Ginny Reed and Dearborn — scan the news and consider the number of volunteers to determine what word to hold up. On a typical night, the word of the night is unveiled when volunteers arrive at the White House.

One of the most memorable nights was when activists gathered for the “Close the Camps” protest. An energized crowd of protestors held up signs in the pouring rain in early July. The lighted letters also travel to other protests, including monthly vigils at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association.

Organizers expect to hold up the lighted letters every Saturday night so long as the Kremlin Annex protests continue.

Photo via Herndon-Reston Indivisible

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Issues Fair Planned as Part of Herndon-Reston Indivisible Meeting This Week

Local activist group Herndon-Reston Indivisible has planned an “issues fair” as part of its public meeting Tuesday.

According to information provided by the group:

Herndon-Reston Indivisible is hosting an Issues Fair to give current and prospective volunteers the opportunity to explore the more than 10 groups that exist within Herndon-Reston Indivisible that are focused on following and taking action on specific issues (for example, healthcare, science & the environment). Attendees can find out what these groups have been doing, what they are planning for the future, and how to can get involved.

According to the organization’s summer newsletter, HRI’s issues groups include the Russian Influence group, the Informed Public group, the Immigration Issues group, the Election Issues group, the Economy Issues group, and the Science and Environment group.

The meeting and fair will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sunset Hills Montessori School (11180 Ridge Heights Road). Snacks and soft drinks will be provided.

Herndon-Reston Indivisible describes itself as “a local organization of like-minded citizens who are resisting the Trump administration and his hateful policies.” The group has had several hundred people attend past meetings.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Lake Fairfax Park soccer field

Lieutenant Governor in Reston Tonight — Ralph Northam, Virginia’s lieutenant governor and a Democratic candidate for governor in the 2017 election, will be a guest speaker tonight at a meeting of Herndon-Reston Indivisible. Other speakers will be Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) and Del. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax/Loudoun). The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at Sunset Hills Montessori School (11180 Ridge Heights Road). [Herndon-Reston Indivisible]

Bulova: ‘Painful Cuts’ in Proposed Federal Budget — The chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors says she is hopeful the local congressional delegation will address what she sees as a number of problems with the Trump administration’s budget proposal, unveiled last week. [Sharon Bulova/Facebook]

Arrests Made in Chantilly Gun Store Heist — Two 23-year-old men and a 19-year-old man have been arrested in connection with the theft of 35 guns from a Chantilly store earlier this month. The men are also charged in the theft of firearms from two shops in Fredericksburg. They each face up to 10 years in prison. [U.S. Department of Justice]

Digital Marketing Agency Opens New Office — Baltimore-based Jellyfish has opened a new office at RTC West (12120 Sunset Hills Road). The office will house more than 20 employees and serves as the development and technology hub for the agency. Five job openings are available. [Jellyfish]

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A New Herndon-Reston Political Group Is Growing, Protesting

Herndon-Reston Indivisible

Amid a political climate growing more divided by the day, a local group looking to stand up for what they believe is reporting big growth.

According to information provided by Herndon-Reston Indivisible, about 300 people attended a meeting the group held Thursday night at Sunset Hills Montessori. Eileen Minarik, the school’s founder and owner, offered up the space.

“People are not just coming to meetings — they’re doing things,” Minarik said. “It’s been really gratifying to see the number of people who are out here, not to be anti-someone, but to be pro-social justice.”

The group is following the suggestions of the Indivisible Guide, developed by former congressional staffers as “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.” Hundreds of such groups have formed across the nation, including more than 150 within a 100-mile radius of Reston.

Members of the group participated in the Women’s March on Washington earlier this month, as well as in a protest Sunday outside the White House. Now, as protests regarding President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration continue at nearby Washington Dulles International Airport, members of the group’s base have taken part.

The executive order has prompted outrage from a number of the area’s representatives on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who addressed protesters at the airport this weekend.

The Herndon-Reston group is also asking members to call Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to urge them to “publicly oppose and filibuster” any Trump nominee to the Supreme Court.

In the 2016 General Election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton took about two-thirds of the vote in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, which includes Herndon and Reston.

Minarik said Herndon-Reston Indivisible’s meeting last week was its second, and the turnout was about twice as large as for the first. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m. at Sunset Hills Montessori (11180 Ridge Heights Road).

Photo via Herndon-Reston Indivisible

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Concerned Restonians: New Administration Flies in Face of Community Tenets

Reston Concerned Citizens Group

The morning of Nov. 9, Margot Lebow was beside herself.

“The day after the election [of President-elect Donald Trump], most of us were in the dark in fetal positions,” the longtime Reston resident said.

Lebow and friends Donna Shaffer and Susann Gerstein simply could not believe the direction the nation had turned in. So they made plans to gather at Cafe Montmartre in Lake Anne Plaza for a “hug.”

But Shaffer thought more people might be in need of a place to gather and talk. So she posted the invite on Facebook.

“We had about 45 people who showed up, and many of them we’d never seen before,” Shaffer said.

At that meeting — and a subsequent one that had an even greater turnout — teachers, children, immigrants and more were given a platform to speak and share their concerns about what the future may bring.

“That kicked off a very powerful discussion,” Gerstein said.

So was born a community activism group the women say is designed to show support for those who feel threatened — and to make sure the principles laid out by Reston founder Robert E. Simon are remembered and followed.

“The wonderful thing about this, honestly, is that it isn’t just old-time Restonians putting our arms around each other,” Gerstein said. “It’s the second and third generation in this community who really do understand what the value system was that created this community.”

Simon, who in 1961 purchased 6,750 acres that would become Reston, founded the community on seven principles — among them, that the importance and dignity of each individual be a focal point of community development.

The women who gather at Cafe Montmartre considered themselves longtime friends of Simon. They said they fear a new zeitgeist that normalizes bullying, mistreatment of others and political incorrectness will result in the “importance and dignity of each individual” being forgotten.

“In a personal sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, the morality of this coming administration is truly frightening,” Lebow said. “Everything is contrary to what we believe as a community, to what we believe as individuals.”

The women say their group isn’t rooted in politics, but rather in ensuring a proper sense of community is maintained in Reston. A separate group, Herndon-Reston Indivisible, has been founded to tackle purely political issues.

Lebow said the idea that Restonians look out for their fellow community members — no matter what race, religion or background — cannot be lost.

“That value system must persevere,” Lebow said. “That concept that is Reston needs to be expanded globally, or at least nationally.”

The women say they continue to plan the future of their group and hope to have more information about upcoming meetings soon. Their goals include continuing to support local charitable organizations including Cornerstones in their efforts.

“It’s really just about respecting people who are different than you,” Gerstein said. “In Reston, you really can put your arms around your neighbors and believe that somehow it will be all right.”

Jesse Bonfeld, Lebow’s husband, said the group understands how important it is to make sure everyone’s voices — not just the loudest — are heard.

“What really drove this was the realization that there are now people in power who have given the bully pulpit to a minority in this country whose values are diametrically opposed to what Bob Simon’s values were,” he said. “That is really the bottom line.”

Pictured: From left, Donna Shaffer, Margot Lebow, Susann Gerstein and Jesse Bonfeld meet at Cafe Montmartre in Lake Anne Plaza on Wednesday evening.

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