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Thousands march to end family separation

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Thousands marched on D.C. to protest the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. PHOTO BY NICKOLAI SUKHAREVThousands marched on D.C. to protest the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. PHOTO BY NICKOLAI SUKHAREV  WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tens of thousands of protesters descended on the nation’s capital Saturday for the Families Belong Together March, chanting “Save Our Children” and objecting to President Trump’s family separation policy for immigrant parents.

“We’ve seen the state of our nation and decided we must take action,” said Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts, one of many speakers at the event. “Life is about making choices … we face a million choices every day, but some choices are just daunting.”

Speaking from a stage at Lafayette Square, Dyrdahl-Roberts, a former employee with the Montana Department of Labor, explained that he resigned from his job in February when instructed to pass along information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would “be used to deport people,” adding that he “couldn’t do it and live with [himself],” and “just follow orders.”

In April 2018, the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy for migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, directing ICE and Customs and Border Protection officers to separate children if the detainees are parents. On June 20, Trump signed an executive order suspending the policy, and a federal court halted the practice through a nationwide injunction on June 26.

Amid concerns of continued separation of parents from children at the border and wanting to reunite families, the ACLU, MoveOn, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights organized the March, which drew an estimated 30,000 attendees.

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Montgomery County residents participate in national March For Our Lives

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Local students and teachers were among the thousands of people participating in the March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C.  PHOTO BY ABBY CRUZMontgomery County students and teachers were among the thousands of people participating in the March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C. PHOTO BY ABBY CRUZ  WASHINGTON, D.C. — Parents, children, students, and teachers from all over Montgomery County rallied at the nation’s capital for the countrywide March For Our Lives demonstration in response to the increasing outbreaks of gun violence across the United States and calling for more attention to current gun control issues.

“I am marching today to proclaim that the culture of violence must be over and that assault weapons need to be banned. I want my daughter and their whole generation [to know] no matter what race you are, what class you are, our society deserves safety,” said Kolya Braun-Greiner, a 62-year-old Takoma Park resident, whose daughter currently attends The Siena School in Silver Spring. Braun-Greiner wants kids “to be able to walk the streets, to be able to go to school, to study with the freedom that they are not going to be shot down. All of this needs to stop, we have to put an end to the gun violence.”

While plenty of adults were present, young people attended the march in vast numbers. Students from various Montgomery County high schools participated in events including attendance of a pre-rally by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and speaking at the march.

“Montgomery County kids have definitely been a huge part of this,” said Elana Tobb, 17, a senior at Sherwood High School. “This is the first time that I think our county has really been involved in a [leadership] position with something like this.”

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Protesters support Vigna

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Two dozen people wearing white t-shirts gathered Friday afternoon to proclaim their solidarity with convicted child sex abuser and former Cloverly Elementary School teacher John Vigna.

On Friday, Montgomery County Circuit Judge David Boynton sentenced Vigna to 48 years in prison for four counts of sexual abuse of a minor and five counts of third-degree sexual offense. “These kids are having a very hard time,” said State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy. “For anybody who thinks that the kids who are victims in this case are not continuing to suffer trauma from what happened to them, well you’ve go it wrong -- you got it wrong.”

Vigna was arrested last June after two 11-year-old victims told administration that Vigna sexually abused them. According to court documents, Vigna sexually abused one student at Cloverly Elementary School where he was a teacher, by squeezing her buttock and making her sit on his lap. Vigna abused another student by hugging her and squeezing her buttock. One of the victims told his or her parents after school one day about incident where Vigna hugged and squeezed his or her buttock. Police then interviewed both victims and charged Vigna when he turned himself in.

Police said Vigna sexually abused the victims during the 2013- 2014 and 2015-2016 school years.

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Protesters Swarm D.C.

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Hundreds of thousands protest against Trump and for climate, jobs and justice

Peoples March 3Protesters show up in the District for the second time in as many weeks for the Climate March. PHOTO BY NICKOLAI SUKHAREV

WASHINGTON – Thousands of marchers descended on the nation's capital Saturday chanting, "This is what democracy looks like" in protest of the current Trump administration's policies on the environment, economy and civil rights.

"I am here fighting for environmental justice because families and communities like mine carry the burden of climate change, yet their voices are erased from the broader fight," said Johana Vicente, 24, an organizer with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters from Silver Spring and one of the speakers at the event.

"For me it is personal. It is personal because my mom was diagnosed with asthma after a few years of being in this country," she added. "I am in this fight for because I want an environment where our communities can go outside and not worry about where they will be able to breathe or not."

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Blinded Me With Science!

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Thousands take to the streets in the District to show support for scientific research

Science March 4Protesters in the District show up to show their support for scientific research.                  PHOTO BY NICKOLAI SUKHAREV

WASHINGTON – Thousands took part in the March for Science in Washington, D.C. Saturday, demanding President Donald J. Trump and his administration recognize climate change and the need to fund scientific research.

“We march today to affirm to all the world that science is relevant, useful, exciting, and beautiful,” said former New Jersey Congressman and one-time Bethesda resident Rush Holt, who currently serves as the executive director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Evidence should not be optional. Good policies start with an understanding of how things actually are,” he added, speaking to a crowd on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

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DeVos and Gov. Hogan visit local elementary school

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DeVos  Hogan visit Carderock Springs Elem. 1Acting Principal Jae Lee welcomes new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) visit Carderock Springs Elementary. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

BETHESDA –Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) visited an elementary school Thursday for National Reading Month.

About 60 second-graders filed into the media center at Carderock Springs Elementary School Thursday morning. DeVos and Hogan read Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go” to the students. She said she had read the book to her grandchildren several times.

She acknowledged the teachers and principal and their roles in the students’ education.

Afterward, she said she enjoyed visiting the school and reinforcing the value she said reading has for students.

“It was a pleasure to continue the celebration of National Reading Month today with the students of Carderock Springs,” DeVos said. “Reading opens kids’ minds and expands their world. Literacy is the foundation of learning, and it’s the starting point on the pathway to the American dream. We must make sure every child in this country not only learns to read but continues to enjoy the benefits of a lifetime of reading and learning.”

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Eagle Scout comes to aid of girl with hair on fire

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Inauguration day heroRon Chilson. PHOTO BY KATHLEEN STUBBS  

WASHINGTON – Ron Chilson III, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout from Penn Yan, New York, said he was just doing a good deed when he extinguished a fire in a girl’s hair with his hand to save the teen from serious harm on Inauguration Day.

Boy Scouts of America taught him to “do a good turn daily, which is what I was trying to do by going to the protest,” Chilson said. “That was what I was taught when I was growing up.”

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Local friends and family members gather for D.C. march

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DC Womens March - pro signProtesters showed up with a variety of signs during the Women’s March on D.C. Saturday. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

WASHINGTON – A group of friends said they enjoyed the Women’s March on Washington Saturday despite temporary separation and the longer trips on Metro to and from the March.

“We met as colleagues. We work together, but we’re all friends,” Rockville resident Susan Seling said.

Seling, who works for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said her train at Grosvenor was crowded Saturday morning but riders on her train made the ride pleasant.

“We were able to board the first train that came, but it was very,very crowded, and lots of good energy,” Seling said.

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Local activists see hope in Dakota Access Pipeline decision

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The December 4 announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota would be rerouted sparked rejoicing from activists throughout the area who had declared solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Tribe’s months-long protest against the project. Numerous activists, including a number of military veterans, traveled to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where a portion of the pipeline was slated to cross.  The protesters objected to potentially hazardous effects on the environment and of the lands, which are sacred to the Native American population. Protesters refused to leave the land, at times leading to tense confrontations with local law enforcement.

Michelle Alexander, a media specialist at Richard Montgomery High School who has been involved in Native American rights activism for many years, was overjoyed when she heard of the decision.

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