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Political turf war erupts at Gazebo – which is the Trump side of the street?

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The gang “Rumble” scene from the 1957 ‘West Side Story’ Broadway play. The play and 1961 movie were musical updates of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ theme of ill-fated love among rival families. – Public Domain Photo found on Wikipedia, by Fred Fehl originally published with no copyright notice

It was kind of like a gang turf war scene from “West Side Story” where the white Jets and Puerto Rican Sharks battle over New York City playground b-ball court space – except Front Royal’s crack law enforcement apparatus intervened before blood was shed at the Front Royal Town Gazebo late Wednesday afternoon, July 25.

Of course unlike the movie, there NEVER was any threat of blood being shed here – other than maybe this reporter’s for playfully making the gang turf war analogy in the first place.  But hey, if you can’t laugh about the disparate realities of pro and anti-Trump contingents occupying the same planet but news sources in galaxies far, far apart, what can you laugh about these days (even with the political fate of the Republic at stake)?

At issue Wednesday, July 25, was the space in and around the Town Gazebo at 5 p.m.  Since March 8, 2017, local activist Len Sherp has gathered at the gazebo with supporters of his Vigil for Democracy to protest Trump and his Administration policies and practices.

As Sherp told Royal Examiner 16 months ago, the impetus for the vigils is his concern that the then newly-elected president, his administration, Congressional and appointed-judicial majorities were threatening to undermine ideals upon which the American Republic was founded, and upon which it has evolved over two-plus centuries.

Len Sherp with Kathleen Roush and Hannah Bement at the inaugural Vigil for Democracy on March 8, 2017 – affordable health care and Trump tax returns were among expressed concerns – it seems some things haven’t changed. Photos/Roger Bianchini

“The government still works for us – “of the people, for the people” – and just because one party has achieved a majority doesn’t mean they shouldn’t show the same reverence for the democratic principals and values of honesty, openness and fairness which have made us a beacon for two centuries,” Sherp told Royal Examiner at the outset of his weekly political vigils.

Within a month a small pro-Trump counter-demonstration appeared across Chester Street in the person of Front Royal Pawn Shop owner Ralph Waller and nephew Michael, who sat quietly on a bench under the town clock with a Trump-Pence campaign sign in front to their pawn shop. Waller told us then that his counter-demonstration was driven by not only his support of the president, but also a feeling that anti-Trump themes of the vigil signage were “divisive”.

Ralph and Michael Waller, seated, joined by early supporter John Lambert on the Trump side of street.

Told the demonstrators across the street were concerned that it was the president himself who was encouraging divisiveness with his political rhetoric, as Royal Examiner reported at the time eventually a friendly dialogue between the Wallers and vigil participants began seeking common ground.  A mutual concern for preservation of the environment became that initial common ground.  Over the past year that dialogue has had its up and downs, but the fact it has ups is a hopeful sign in an increasingly divisive American political landscape.

Mutual concerns about the environment created dialogue across political lines and Chester Street – Ralph Waller, left, talks with Michelle House and Bob Hill as Rusty the dog and Charles House observe on May 3, 2017.

Gradually over the spring and summer months of 2017 other Trump supporters joined the Wallers on the public right of way in front of the pawn shop.  Judging from their rosary praying, pro-life signage and images of Mary, the mother of Jesus, those newer Trump supporters were largely from the conservative Catholic community.

And since late April-May 2017 the opposing sides have sparred with their political signage and sometimes voices across the Chester Street political divide.

On May 24, 2017 the Wallers were joined by a faith-based contingent of Trump supporters.

A new wrinkle

With the crucial 2018 mid-term Congressional elections about three-and-a-half months away, on July 18, 2018 a new player joined the scene, the Warren County Republican Committee.  While individual committee members may join the Waller-led pro-Trump contingent from time to time, to our knowledge the Republican Committee had never previously engaged under its party banner.

According to participants on both sides that initial, July 18, county Republican Committee presence appeared on the Waller pawn shop side of Chester Street.

However, according to an e-mail circulated Wednesday morning, July 25 by Warren County Republican Committee Chairman Steve Kurtz the committee was promoting a second weekly Republican candidates and Donald Trump Rally “at the Front Royal Gazebo.”  The scheduled time listed in Kurtz’s e-mail subject field was 4:30 p.m., a half hour prior to the scheduled start of the town-permitted Vigil for Democracy.

At 4:30 p.m. the only demonstration at the Gazebo appeared to be in support of C&C Frozen Treats, from which ice cream was being eaten under the protective roof of the gazebo.

However, at 4: 30 p.m. there were no Republicans on hand at the gazebo, only two teenage girls eating their ice cream from C&C Frozen Treats under the shelter provided by the gazebo from the sporadic rains of the day.  At 4:40 p.m. this reporter left the rainy, ice-cream-eating demonstration.

But when he returned at 5:05 p.m. it was a different story.  Anti-Trump Vigil for Democracy organizer Len Sherp and eight supporters were gathered near the gazebo IN the rain, while Kurtz and four Republican companions had the high ground of the gazebo OUT of the now light rain.

However, shortly after 5 p.m. the Republicans had the high ground of the gazebo while the Vigil for Democracy was out in the rain.

Following a phone call from the Vigil side of the street, first FRPD Officer Dave Fogle and then Captain Jason Ryman joined the scene.  A few conversations later the result was that the Republicans began un-taping their Trump-Pence, Corey Stewart and Ben Cline campaign signs from the gazebo posts, descended the steps and crossed Chester Street to what over the past 16 months has become the traditional and permitted Wednesday afternoon pro-Trump side of the street.

After a brief conversation with FRPD’s Dave Fogle and Jason Ryman, Steve Kurtz and his friends began the move out of the gazebo and to the traditional Trump side of the street.

However, neither the Wallers nor the conservative Catholics were present to greet the reinforcements.  The Wallers are reportedly on a fishing vacation, possibly in the wilds of Canada if I correctly recall stories of their past summer fishing ventures. – HEY Ralph, that’s not illegal immigration or a trade-war foray against the Canadian fishing industry, is it?

After Officer Fogle crossed Chester Street to talk with the relocated Republicans and Ryman spoke briefly with Sherp and his group, we queried the FRPD captain on exactly what had transpired.  Or to paraphrase Sgt. Joe Friday from the early police drama “Dragnet” of this reporter’s youth – “Just the facts, Captain Ryman, just the facts.”

Facts one and two are that the Vigil for Democracy has been permitted by the town government to gather for an hour at a specified time weekly “in the gazebo area” which according to Ryman includes the gazebo itself; and that permitted or not permitted you are not allowed to adhere signs to public property like the gazebo support posts.

As FRPD Captain Jason Ryman watches, Vigil organizer Len Sherp may be gesturing that the normal order of the universe, at least one small portion of it along Chester Street, has been restored.

So it appears that our defacto “Sharks” (self-described “Vigilites” here, Puerto Ricans in the movie) won this round of our own “West Side Story” turf war saga, while the “Jets” (conservative whites both here and in the movie) were banished out of the playground, I mean to the other side of Chester Street where as noted above, they are permitted to be.

And that order has the weekly pro-Trump support on the west side of Chester St. and the anti-Trump contingent on the east side.

I don’t know – is there anything to make out of the fact that in this instance the rule of law sided with those locals concerned that President Trump and the sitting Republican Congressional majority are engaged in a systematic assault on the rule of law regarding a Trump Justice Department-commissioned and lifelong Republican-administered investigation into the past and current behavior of a sitting president?

Or that the rule of law came down against a local political committee whose chairman wrote in soliciting participants for the July 25 Republican candidate and pro-Trump rally that it would be “countering the Un-American DemocRATic Anti Trump Protest”?

Nah, probably just a meaningless coincidence … But don’t forget, in “West Side Story” the Jets and Sharks kept revisiting their playground turf war – stay tuned for updates as the mid-terms 2018 approach. See Related Story

A Vigil for Democracy sign citing patriotism as support of ‘America, not a fake president’ appears to have made its way toward the Republican Committee high ground earlier in the political turf war of July 25.

Local News

Warren County School Board calls special meeting

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The Warren County School Board called a special meeting on February 13th to hear Superintendent Greg Drescher overview of PayPoint Compensation Study and the report on the Compensation and Benefits Study.

Drescher indicated that all of the work on these studies is about being competitive in the local market and not being done to just pay people more money. The local market includes all of the school divisions that touch Warren County and the City of Winchester. He also said that in order for WCPS to attract and retain a quality workforce, WCPS needs to offer competitive pay and benefits.

Download the Studies:

Compensation and Benefits Study Presentation

Final Report Compensation and Benefits Study

The Royal Examiner’s camera was there.

Related stories.

Warren County School Board Public Hearing on FY 2020 Budget

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Local News

I-66 Outside the Beltway Project: Lane closures and traffic changes week of February 17, 2019

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What’s Happening

As weather conditions allow, crews will continue corridor wide roadway maintenance and address issues as needed, with daily multi-lane closures during daytime and overnight hours on eastbound and westbound I-66. Additional construction activities include:

• Constructing bridge abutments at Route 28 and I-495 interchanges

• Constructing box culverts inside the Route 123 Interchange for shared-use path
• Constructing retaining walls near Jermantown Road and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road)
• Grading, excavating, clearing trees and brush, and drainage installation at the Route 28, Route 123, Route 50 and I-495 interchanges, and other work zone location along the corridor
• Clearing trees and brush at the future Balls Ford Park and Ride Lot near Manassas
• Grading, excavating, and small charge blasting for storm drain trenches at the future University Boulevard Park and Ride Lot
• Grading and excavating for the new E.C. Lawrence Park Access Road
• Relocating underground and overhead utilities along I-66 and Route 28

The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project will add express lanes stretching 22.5 miles from the Capital Beltway to Route 29 in Gainesville, rebuild major interchanges along the I-66 corridor, create thousands of new park and ride spaces, and expand trail options for cyclists and pedestrians. Learn more at Transform66.org.

Upcoming Lane Closures and Traffic Changes

The following planned lane closures are expected to have significant traffic impacts. All work is subject to change based on weather and schedule. Find the latest information on travel conditions and work zones by visiting 511virginia.org or downloading the Virginia511 app.

ROUTE 29 (LEE HIGHWAY) / GAINESVILLE
Route 29 North and South between Heathcote Boulevard and University Boulevard
Thursday, February 21, and Friday, February 22: 11 a.m. to Noon
Traffic will be temporarily stopped for up to 15 minutes for small charge blasting operations at the future Park and Ride Lot. Additionally, the ramp from I-66 West to Route 29 North (Exit 43B) will be temporarily closed for 15 minutes beginning at 11 a.m.

ROUTE 234 BUSINESS (SUDLEY ROAD) / MANASSAS
No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 28 (SULLY ROAD) / CENTREVILLE
No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 286 (FAIRFAX COUNTY PARKWAY)
No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 50 / FAIRFAX
No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 123 (CHAIN BRIDGE ROAD) / OAKTON – CITY OF FAIRFAX
No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 243 (NUTLEY STREET) / VIENNA
I-66 East and West from I-459 to Route 243 (Nutley Street)
Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February 23: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
Three lanes will be closed with periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 5 a.m. to remove an overhead sign gantry.

I-495 (CAPITAL BELTWAY)
I-66 East and West from I-459 to Route 243 (Nutley Street)
Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February 23: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
Three lanes will be closed with periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 5 a.m. to remove an overhead sign gantry.

Commuter Alternatives
VDOT and the project team have invested in a broad range of programs to help commuters and others stay mobile and safe during construction. Learn more about carpool, vanpool, telework, and commuter bus alternatives.

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Local News

Tim Ratigan announces to run for South River Supervisor

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Mike McCool, Royal Examiner Publisher speaks with South River resident Tim Ratigan and his plans to run for the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams.

Tim Ratigan announces his run to fill the South River spot on the Board of Supervisors. Tim stopped by our studios and speaks with Royal Examiner publisher Mike McCool:

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Local News

Front Royal-Warren County: The canoe AND viewpoint ‘Capital of Virginia’

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Cullers Overlook, (Andy Guest) Shenandoah River State Park; from the Matador story – ‘Take a drive to Shenandoah River State Park and make a quick left onto Overnight Road, where a small parking lot sits next to the best lookout in the state.’ Photos from Matador article as attributed/Shenandoah River State Park/Facebook

Well, a sitting vice president once christened Front Royal/Warren County “the Canoe Capital of Virginia” – thanks, Al. But now – during a tourism report to the Warren County Board of Supervisors on February 5, Front Royal Community Development and Tourism Director Felicia Hart noted that Culler’s Overlook at Andy Guest-Shenandoah River State Park had been cited as the number one view point in Virginia accessible without necessity of a long or grueling hike. This reporter had previously been made aware of the designation by a shared Facebook post of congratulations to the community by an old friend and fellow past travel explorer “Joe Ball” aka Bob Mason.

The designation came as part of the Matador Network’s survey of “The Best Scenic Viewpoints in The United States that you can drive to”. And the Cullers Overlook panorama selected by Matador Network as one of the 50 best drivable-to view-sheds – one in each state – is a magnificent representation of this community’s natural assets; and certainly one the Commonwealth of Virginia can be proud of.

The Matador Network website <matadornetwork.com> describes itself as “a tribe of millions of travelers across the globe with an unquenchable thirst for adventure and exploration” – not a bad viewing base for a little tourism promotion WORLDWIDE!!! (as of publication the referenced story could be reached at <matadornetwork.com/read/roadside-viewpoint-every-state> or simply by searching the web at “best scenic viewpoints” with “best scenic viewpoints in the United States you can drive to” being the first find we encountered).

Screenshot from the Matador Network website, matadornetwork.com.

“Having the added exposure by the Matador Network is a win/win for Front Royal/Warren County. We love being able to take advantage of stories such as this,” Hart told Royal Examiner in response to a question about the designation. “Thousands will see the image of Cullers Overlook and be made aware of all that we have to offer. To stop and realize that out of all the scenic overlooks in the State of Virginia, Matador choose us, makes us extremely proud – and as an added bonus, we didn’t even have to pay for this exposure.”

We asked Hart if there was any special effort that brought the community’s natural tourism assets to the Matador Network’s attention.

“We regularly participate in Help A Reporter Out (HARO) requests when they are looking for stories, ideas, and photography. We have a number of travel writers that will be coming through our community soon – as they always do – so we’ll make sure that they are able to see and learn about all that our community has to offer.”

Hart pointed to economic benefits to the community peripheral to an increase in tourism numbers, potentially from the world over.

“In addition, stories such as this help not only our tourism numbers – heads in beds lodging tax, meals tax, etcetera – it works to draw potential businesses to our community. Whether they are smaller Mom/Pop shops – outfitter or such – or bigger businesses that are looking for quality of life for themselves and their employees – they are made aware of Front Royal/Warren County.

“With regards to how we used the story – not only did we ‘push’ the story out via our social media, the State of Virginia tourism shared it. Several of the Virginia Welcome Centers also ‘pushed it’ out via their social media. A group that we are partners in, the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership … shared the story too.

“We worked hard to maximize the exposure to this story. It’s one thing for us to brag about ourselves, but when we can get an “outsider” to say it, now it has real value to someone reading the story. And of course, local newspaper stories are always appreciated,” Hart said.

You’re welcome, Felicia.

As a teaser to visit the Matador site and story, here are a few other entries – trust us, there are some of astonishing, non-manmade natural beauty, both like and very different from our own entry:

Atigun Pass, Brooks Range Alaska: from Matador, ‘Dalton Highway is not so much an overlook as an immersive glacial mountain experience’ – I guess it’s good we hiked Alaska in the summer, JoeBall – or that we flew over the Brooks Range on way to Anaktuvuk Pass for slightly lower-elevated points north – Photo/Leonie Wharton

Then there are your more urban view-sheds, here Watson Island between Miami and Miami Beach, Florida – Photo/Chris LaBasco/Shuttercock

Or New Jersey’s pick, from Liberty State Park with a panoramic view of the New York City skyline – Photo/Dorbis/Shutterstock

Or Felicia, imagine you had ‘Carhenge’ to work with – Photo/Nebraska Tourism

And just in case you doubted us on the natural beauty teaser – above is Montana’s Heaven’s Peak Outlook; and below a little close to home for my mom, Looking Glass Rock, North Carolina near her hometown of Asheville. Photo/tusharkoley/Shutterstock & ExploreAsheville.com

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Local News

Expanding goals at the House of Hope

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The House of Hope is committed to providing help and support to homeless men in our community. It provides a place of security and safety from nature as well as other forces. It provides food, nurture, encouragement, guidance, support, and training for homeless men as they seek to work towards independence again.

Since its beginning, the House of Hope sought to provide shelter for the homeless. But not only that, it really was committed to helping men understand their situation, their resources, and pathways to live independently. It was never intended to be a shelter that just provided a place to stay.

In the last year, through expanding our funding through the “Hope With A Heart” and securing our first paid director, the House has set a new course towards that goal that started this project ten years ago. It still provides food and housing and ongoing case management, but Dr. Randyl Brown has also introduced a new Life Skills Coaching Program. The goal is to help each man to make plans to be independent within three months if possible.

At the House you will find loving and caring passion to help homeless men embrace the life they were meant to experience. Together the staff, the Board, the community, and the men are working together to make a difference in the lives of these men. As one man shared, “As a person who nearly froze and starved, I can tell you the difference between House of Hope and the street is the difference between Heaven and Hell.”

All donations are appreciated and essential since we do not have any major funding through other avenues. We appreciate those businesses and organizations that have given various grants to help help us. It takes about $8,000.00 a month to run this program. We appreciate all those who have partnered with us through the “Hope With a Heart.” This is a pledge to give $1000.00 a year for three years. We would love to talk with anyone interested in becoming a partner with us through that program.

Empty Bowl Supper

Everyone is invited to a special dinner and celebration of the mission at the House of Hope on March 28, 2019 from 5:00 to 7:00. You will be given the opportunity to select a bowl for your keeping. However, you can also fill with soups from various wonderful chefs in our community. The cost is $25.00. This is a great way to come out and have fun with your community, eat some wonderful soup, and be involved in an important mission for reaching out to homeless men in our community.

Dr R. Mark Jordon dropped by the Royal Examiner’s studio and discussed the House of Hope with our publisher Mike McCool:

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Crime/Court

Local man arrested and charged with ‘Possession of Child Pornography’

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Marquise Cameron, 19, of Front Royal, was charged and arrested with two counts of §18.2-374.1:1 Possession of Child Pornography. Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, Marquise Cameron, 19, of Front Royal, was charged and arrested with two counts of §18.2-374.1:1 Possession of Child Pornography. These charges were placed after a probation search was conducted at Cameron’s residence, 1314 Madison Avenue, where detectives took possession of his cellular devices. No further details are available in this case due to the investigation still pending.

Cameron was transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail where he was also charged with a violation of his probation. Marquise Cameron was ordered to be held without bond with a pending court date of March 21, 2019 at 9:00am in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Anyone with any further information in reference to this case is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at mramey@frontroyalva.com.

In Virginia, possession of child pornography violates Virginia Code Section 18.2-374.1:1. That statute provides:

  • A. Any person who knowingly possesses child pornography is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
  • B. Any person who commits a second or subsequent violation of subsection A is guilty of a Class 5 felony.

Attorney James S. Abrenio of the Ben Glass Law Firm in Fairfax, says child pornography charges bring with them some of the most strenuous sanctions that can be imposed.

He says whether someone is in “possession” of child pornography can be a very fact specific analysis, and will need to be analyzed in each case. However, Virginia courts have provided some guidance:

  • In Kromer v. Commonwealth, 613 S.E.2d 871 (2005), the court found that possession requires a finding that the defendant intentionally sought out and viewed child pornography on the Internet, knowing that the images would be saved on his computer. It, however, did not require that the defendant actually originally downloaded the images.
  • To be charged with an enhanced Class 5 Felony of Child Pornography, the Papol v. Commonwealth, 754 S.E.2d 918 (2014) Court found that possessing multiple images during a single download was sufficient for a second or subsequent violations, rather than only a single conviction.
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all-day 2nd annual Car Giveaway event @ Auto Care Clinic
2nd annual Car Giveaway event @ Auto Care Clinic
Feb 18 all-day
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RMA’s Open House @ Randolph-Macon Academy
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RMA's Open House @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy invites you to come discover what “The Power of Rise” can do for your child at the next open house on Monday, February 18th. Tours begin promptly at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.[...]
10:00 am The Power of Rise @ Randolph-Macon Academy
The Power of Rise @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Feb 18 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
The Power of Rise @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy invites you to come discover what “The Power of Rise” can do for your child at the next open house on Monday, February 18th. Tours begin promptly at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. To[...]