Metro union holds rally on Thursday; calls for GM’s termination over “Unite the Right 2” rally

Raymond Jackson, ATU 689's second vice president, speaks at the rally on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Matthew Goldman.

By: Matthew Goldman

The ATU Local 689, a union that represents WMATA employees, held a “Truth, Unity and Justice” rally outside of the Metro Center Metro Station on Thursday. Several union leaders and residents called for General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s termination. 

What led to ATU Local 689 holding a rally on Thursday?

Last Sunday, there was a “Unite the Right 2” demonstration in the District. And ATU Local 689 believes WMATA gave Jason Kessler, the organizer of the rally, and other white nationalists special traveling accommodations.   

Police officers led Kessler and his followers into the last metro car at Vienna Metro, and members of the media were allowed to board that same car. Then, officers escorted Kessler’s group from Foggy Bottom to Lafayette Square.

Days before the rally, Metro received backlash after WMATA considered having separate trains for “Unite the Right 2” demonstrators. After the “Unite the Right 2” rally, Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly said, “All Orange Line trains were marked “special” as a destination today because they terminate at Foggy Bottom, which is not a normal terminus, because of major track work.”

“The Kessler group traveled from Vienna to Foggy Bottom on a regularly scheduled train, together with other passengers, media and law enforcement. They were escorted by police onto the rear of the train and police rode in that rail car and others to protect the safety of everyone onboard the train. The train stopped at every station to allow any customers to enter and exit. Vienna station remained open to the public at all times. Any changes to traffic patterns were directed by police for crowd management,” she added.

That statement wasn’t enough justification for ATU Local 689’s leaders and members. They blasted WMATA on social media and in interviews, calling for transparency from the transit system and Wiedefeld’s termination.

What happened at the rally?

Jackie Jeter, ATU Local 689’s president, and Raymond Jackson, ATU’s second vice president, were two of several speakers at the rally. Residents and reporters were also there to voice their concerns about Wiedefeld and WMATA. 

Several Union members stood with signs depicting images of the alleged special treatment given to the white nationalists. Other transit union members and community activists were present. Moments into the rally, Jackson began firing up the crowd with this chant: “1,2,3,4…Paul Wiedefeld must go!”

Later, Jackson interjected with a comment about Metro’s ridership. Thanks to the mistakes made by Metro and Wiedefeld, “metro riders are now riding with Uber.”

Jeter urged the public to contact the Northern Virginia Transit Commission, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to order the WMATA Board to terminate Wiedefeld immediately.

Jeter allowed residents to voice their concerns over the microphone, too. David Stephen, the union’s spokesperson, asked the public to sign a pre-typed petition letter, which is addressed to specific local government officials to take immediate action. Moments later, Stephen told the crowd to text “DCTRANSIT” to 33733 to receive updates about the campaign.

To learn more about the alleged allegations by WMATA and ATU’s campaign, follow @ATULocal689 on Twitter.