In Brief: IMPACT takes on ICE, infiltrators at SURJ, City Manager fires back

A representative from a local congregation puts up signs at the IMPACT rally. Photo: Zach Wajsgras A representative from a local congregation puts up signs at the IMPACT rally. Photo: Zach Wajsgras

Making an IMPACT

“It has been almost four years since the father of my kids was deported to Mexico due to his stay in the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail,” said Fanny Smedlie, reading a statement from her friend Karla Lopez.

Smedlie, a member of the Executive Committee of the Church of the Incarnation, addressed a large gathering of people of faith from all over Charlottesville at a March 5 rally for IMPACT, an interfaith community service coalition. Ending the ACRJ’s practice of voluntarily notifying ICE when undocumented immigrants are detained is one of the causes that IMPACT has adopted this year.

After a year in jail, Lopez’s husband was deported on the day he was supposed to be released. Lopez was waiting outside the jail with her children. “They had prepared balloons and a banner that said welcome home Dad. When we got back home, they destroyed it,” read Smedlie.

As well as lobbying the jail board to end ICE notifications, IMPACT also hopes to continue advocating for greater investment in affordable housing, a cause they worked on last year.

The rally this week was a warm up for the group’s larger annual event, which will be held March 31 at Charlottesville High School. The leaders at the rally revealed IMPACT’s guiding theory of change-making: “We need our people power to make all this happen,” said Greta Dershimer of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church. IMPACT hopes to turn out 1,300 people for that event.

Reverend Will Peyton of St. Paul’s Memorial Church emphasized that the diverse crowd of people gathered before him on Thursday all represented one community, and that working towards divine justice meant fighting for each other.

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you,” Peyton said.

“It is not about individuals. It’s about the whole community.”

Suspicious minds

A Charlottesville Police detective who assembled a dossier on anti-fascist groups in the months before the Unite the Right rally approvingly quoted right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and described antifascists as “using words to cloak reality,” according to newly surfaced city government documents. Cops also compiled research on Black Lives Matter (in addition to the white nationalist groups that organized the deadly rally), and two detectives even turned up covertly at the downtown library for a June 2017 meeting of Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ.

“The meeting started with the group”—40 to 50 people, mostly women— “chanting the names of individuals who had suffered ‘police’ brutality,” one of them wrote. “A female spoke for approximately 30 minutes on the history of the Monacan nation.”

The detectives witnessed the handover of a racial justice yard sign and T-shirt before being forced to abort their mission. “I left early,” one wrote, “as I was concerned that I would be made during a group activity where all were forced to participate.”


Quote of the Week

“I know they are here, my ancestors. The people that found the town called Winneba are here with me and I think they are so proud.”

­—Nana Akyeampong-Ghartey, president of the Charlottesville-Winneba Foundation, on the honorary designation of 6 1/2 Street SW as Winneba Way


In Brief

Hot under the collar

City Manager Tarron Richardson and local firefighter’s union leader Greg Wright exchanged fiery emails last week, after Richardson declined to grant the fire department’s request for 12 new staff. Wright said Richardson was “willfully ignorant” about the department; Richardson shot back that “Your educational achievements…will never be a match to any of my qualifications or credentials,” in emails procured by The Daily Progress.

Be ready

Like everyone else, city and county school systems are preparing for the possibility of a local outbreak of coronavirus. ACPS released a detailed plan that includes implementing social distancing in schools, advising parents to secure long-term childcare, and the potential cancellation of  assemblies, athletic events, and field trips if a case of COVID-19 is identified in the region.

Crime ring?

Albemarle County Police Department has announced that it’s joining more than 400 police departments nationwide in partnering with Ring, Amazon’s video doorbell home security system. That means county cops will be able to access video footage from outside (and sometimes inside) people’s homes, which is also stored on Amazon’s servers. New York Mag calls the system “dystopian;” The Intercept notes its “dismal privacy practices;” and Vice says Ring is essentially “de facto beta testing” for facial recognition software. What could go wrong?



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John Gray
John Gray

Mr. Lopez was deported after one-year in jail. What was his offense? Isn’t that information required to judge whether the deportation was appropriate?