Columbia Heights


“Lazy Policing” and a Hate Crime in Columbia Heights: Your Take

Flickr: aliciagriffin

Columbia Heights Metro, as seen from 14th Street NW.

There are some lessons that can be learned from an incident late last month when five women were assaulted by two men near the Columbia Heights Metro, according to observers. Originally, the men were flirtatious, but when one of the women identified another as her partner, the men shouted homophobic slurs, then physically attacked them.

Chai Shenoy of Holla Back DC noted that it was a bystander who called police. “Kudos,” Shenoy said. “Community engagement is key to creating safe spaces in DC.”

She said Police Chief Cathy Lanier was smart to send a strong signal by investigating the police officers who were involved.

Shenoy said that’s key “with the increase of gender-based crimes happening in the LGBTQ community.”

D.C. residents used social media to air their concerns about the case:

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Latinos Present Opportunities for Crime in Columbia Heights

Flickr via blahmni

Fiesta D.C. 2010, Mount Pleasant

D.C. Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes says that the Metropolitan Police Department is facing “challenges” in and around Columbia Heights, where Latino immigrants are often the targets of a growing number of robberies and assaults:

The reason? “I think people realize they might be carrying cash, also they might not report it to police, so I think they become victims of crime more than others…they present a unique opportunity,.” Groomes said.

The area, which law enforcement call Police Service Area 302, is bordered by 16th Street NW, Harvard Street NW and Park Place NW, and it’s 31 percent Hispanic. Groomes characterized the incidents as crimes of opportunity, not hate crimes.

Didier Sinisterra, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs confirmed that the office is working with police to provide information to Latino residents on protecting themselves. .

“We have identified three key locations where we will be doing local outreach to inform people and hand out additional information: Spring Road, Mount Pleasant St and Columbia Heights.”

According to Sinisterra, the outreach efforts received a positive response. “We engage our community, go into local businesses. We let people know about the situation and we encourage them not to carry a lot of cash. We chose Friday because that is when a lot of Latinos get paid.”

OLA is also encouraging people to open bank accounts, so that they aren’t carrying large amounts of cash. This week, they will be in Mount Pleasant on Friday, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Josie Rizo, who works on the 1400 block of Irving St NW isn’t concerned. “So far nothing has happened and I’ve been working here for a year now,” she said, adding that she would go to the police if she is targeted by a crime. “I feel pretty safe…In this area especially, there are a lot of people walking around, so that helps.”

Unwrapping the Controversy at Chipotle

Courtesy of

The protest at Chipotle was preceded by a march through Columbia Heights.

Thirty-five people marched last week from a local church to the Columbia Heights Chipotle to protest how the restaurant chain fired 40 employees for allegedly lacking forms that prove they’re allowed to legally work in the U.S.

According to the workers, when they returned from a 30-minute break, they found their replacements were already behind the counter. The workers allege that they were not offered any proper notice before or due compensation after the mass termination and “could not even have a lawyer, organizer, or any other person present in order to discuss their demands,” wrote Aaron Morrissey, at DCist.

Courtesy of

Fired Chipotle employee Miguel Bravo, demonstrating on 14th Street.

“We are here to protest the bad treatment of workers. We were fired in a very unjust manner and we feel that’s another form of discrimination against the Latino workers of this place. After they fired us unjustly, they told us they were going to give us a severance payment of $2,000 and now they have refused to follow through with that promise and we are here to demand that they pay us,” Miguel Bravo, one of the workers said at the rally last week with the help of a translator.

Chris Arnold, communications director of Chipotle, denied workers’ allegations that they were treated unfairly. He said the company is responsible for ensuring it is hiring employees without breaking the law.

“The circumstances here relate to a group of about 40 employees, all of whom provided new documents to verify their work authorization status over the span of just a few days. All of those documents proved to be fraudulent. Under the law, we cannot employ any individual who is not legally authorized to work in this country. When we communicated this to the employees, most of them simply walked off the job, others were let go. But there was no mass firing during a break,” Arnold said.
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Fired Chipotle Worker Miguel Bravo Speaks

Yesterday, I covered a local protest against Chipotle. Approximately 40 people marched down Irving Street NW to the fast food chain’s Columbia Heights location on 14th Street. Miguel Bravo, one of the fired workers, addressed the crowd. Check back for comment from City Council members and Chipotle’s Communications Director, Chris Arnold.

Fired Workers March on Columbia Heights Chipotle

Flickr: Mr. T in DC

Heading to Columbia Heights to see the the latest protest against the firing of Chipotle workers.

A coalition of leaders, activists, religious organizations and community groups in the Washington D.C. area will soon descend on Chipotle’s doorstep…They intend to gather at 5 pm at The Sacred Heart Church in Columbia Heights, at which point those in attendance will march to the store in a powerful expression of protest against the disgraceful actions of Chipotle Mexican Grill.

According to the article “On May 5th, (Cinco de Mayo, no less) fired workers will team up with everyday citizens to restore the inherent dignity and worth of all individuals in our communities”. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

This will be the second protest for the workers at the Columbia Heights Chipotle who were allegedly fired over documentation issues.

According to, the workers said the firings occurred during a 30-minute break and when they came back from the meeting their replacements were already wrapping burritos. New allegations by the former employees say Chipotle hasn’t compensated them for back wages and won’t meet with City Council Members Jim Graham and Michael A. Brown, who marched for the workers in the first protest.

Check back tomorrow for an update.

Bell Multicultural High School Welcomes Obama for Town Hall on DREAM Act, Education

Flickr: United States Government Work

No wonder Irving Street was blocked off this morning! The President visited Bell Multicultural High School in Columbia Heights, for a town hall meeting on education that will air tonight on Univision. The Chancellor for D.C. schools, Kaya Henderson was also there, along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Juan Sepulveda, head of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

According to pool reports, the President was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from students and parents as he took the stage. The President answered questions from the audience and via pre-taped video about the role of parents in education, the DREAM act, technology and more. However, the first question, from the event’s moderator, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, was about Libya. The President briefly answered that U.S. involvement there would be limited before adding that he would address the issue later tonight (tune in to WAMU 88.5 at 7 p.m., for NPR’s full coverage of the event).

After watching a video question from a female student who was holding up a deportation letter, the President said that he strongly supports the DREAM Act: “We’ve got to keep the pressure up on Congress”. Obama stated that it was not appropriate to give undocumented workers “temporary protected status” and he clarified that it was not possible to suspend deportations by executive order.

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Black People Gentrify Neighborhoods, Too

Flilckr: Andrew Bossi

Le Droit Park, D.C.

The word gentrification is regularly used to describe the process of white people displacing black people in up-and-coming neighborhoods. The cover story of this week’s City Paper goes beyond that stereotype and offers a point of view which isn’t often present in color-coded, nuance-free debates about how areas are changing: that of the black gentrifier.

The story of the black gentrifier, at least from this black gentrifier’s perspective, is often a story about being simultaneously invisible and self-conscious. The conversation about the phenomenon remains a strict narrative of young whites displacing blacks who have lived here for generations. But a young black gentrifier gets lumped in with both groups, often depending on what she’s wearing and where she’s drinking. She is always aware of that fact…

And those of us walking fancy dogs, gawking at fancier renovations, but who happen to look like most of our neighbors, don’t necessarily have better insight into what’s going on around us than the white folks do. The class differences can yawn almost as wide as racial ones—almost. Soon enough, “D.C. will be majority rich people,” Ngongang says. “The statistics of D.C. will match what corporate America looks like.” It stings for a minute, because I’m not quite sure which side of that statistical warning I want to identify with.

Dogs: Good for Irving Street and D.C.


My puppy on 14th Street, last spring. Note the prominent poop bags. We scoop!

First I blogged about dogs, then I pointed you towards some controversy over a Greater Greater Washington post…funnily enough, this post is about dogs and GGW. A few days ago, Lynda Laughlin wrote a post there called, “Irving Street becomes unofficial dog latrine“. In it, she asks, “how much dog urine is just too much for such a public space?”. That question hit home for me, literally.

For those of you who are familiar with this stretch of sidewalk, there is very little green space and the sidewalks are particularly crowded in the morning with commuters going to the Metro or waiting for one of the many buses.

With so little green space, dogs pee on the large planters in front of the apartment building, leaving behind noticeable puddles of dog urine. For the dogs that do make it to the tree boxes, they are not the first for the ground is already fairly saturated by 8 am…If you plan to own a dog in a city, shouldn’t you at least consider taking your dog further then just the nearest tree box?

I am going to dispute this respectfully, and then I’m going to present a different view, because lost in all the judgment of animals and their owners is one potent fact; dogs can make a neighborhood.
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Bearing Gifts We Traverse Afar

Flickr: Mr. T in DC

Three Kings in the Epiphany Procession in Columbia Heights, 2009.

The New Columbia Heights blog points out what I missed on Sunday (drat!):

This past Sunday was Epiphany, also celebrated as Three Kings’ Day. Latin American Catholics in the neighborhood (and around the world) celebrate it with a big procession of people dressed as the Three Wise Men, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, and more, complete with donkeys and sheep.

The procession goes down 14th and ended with a performance at the Gala Theatre, plus free churros and hot chocolate…The reader says more animals showed up a bit later.

Always like to see interesting cultural traditions like this.