Gaylord hotel gets hybrids, protests and a flash mob


Taxi drivers protesting outside Gaylord hotel

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The protests outside Gaylord National grew larger this week as cab drivers and supporters stepped up their demand for a taxi stand. Instead of complying with the request, Gaylord’s transportation vendor, the French multinational corporation Veolia, introduced a new line of more affordable Hybrid vehicles meant to compete directly with taxis. “Since the hybrid cars started working, none of our taxi drivers [can] get a job from this area,” driver leader Fisseha Tesfaye told The Taxi Link at Friday’s protest. 

Taxis are at a distinct disadvantage when competing with Veolia. While the French giant’s vehicles park directly outside the hotel, taxis must pay $60 a month to park on the third floor of a garage across the street from Gaylord, out of sight of guests. “Gaylord-Marriott is [setting] a bad example,” said Tesfaye. “This is how we feed our family. This is how we [are] supporting ourselves. Now they’re trying to take it away.”

Friday’s protest, the largest to date, included a possible first for D.C.-area driver activism: a flash mob. In Gaylord’s ornate lobby, supporters with the AFL-CIO’s Union Summer program shocked management and onlookers when they broke out in dance. “The hotel’s unfair… We need a taxi stand over there,” the union activists sang as they pointed to the hotel’s front parking lot.

Friday’s protest followed a similar demonstration on Wednesday, which was covered by News 4. Unmentioned in the News 4 report was that Tracee Wilkins and her cameraman were told by National Harbor security that they couldn’t film the protest on the sidewalk without prior approval.

National Harbor is an interesting development. It’s a $3 billion luxury resort and mini-city located on the Potomac River, just over the D.C. line in Prince George’s County. It likely couldn’t have been built five years ago without hundreds of millions of public dollars invested in its roads and infrastructure. Yet National Harbor seems to view itself as a private entity.

A camera sits idling on National Harbor's sidewalk after security told News 4 it couldn't film without prior approval

A camera sits idling on National Harbor’s sidewalk after security told News 4 it couldn’t film without prior approval

In addition to its six hotels, Gaylord being the largest (as well as the largest on the east coast), National Harbor has condos, restaurants and shopping. And it’s expected to grow dramatically in the near future with an outlet mall scheduled to come online in December and an MGM casino in 2016.

“We’re going to [keep coming] back here until we get the right for these local taxis to pick up guests at National Harbor,” Beth Levie of the AFL-CIO told The Taxi Link at Friday’s protest. “This is a fight about local business [and] local workers against multinational corporations.”

Elsewhere in the D.C. region this week, a cab driver went public with a recording of his passenger making anti-Islamic statements against him during a late-night ride in April. This is the second time in as many months that a northern Virginia cab driver has used a recording to prove he’s been subjected to verbal and possibly physical assaults based on religion.

Last month, Mohamed Salim recorded his passenger, aviation executive Ed Dahlberg, telling him, “If you’re a f—ing Muslim, flying jets into the World Trade Center, then f— you! I will slice your f—ing throat right now!” That case is scheduled for trial in August.

In this latest instance, Abdikar Aden and his passenger, Jennifer Crabbe, had a dispute and both called 911. Aden, who had pulled over to the side of the road, told the police dispatcher that Crabbe was drunk and he can be heard telling her, “Don’t touch me, okay!”

Meanwhile, amidst her expletive-laden comments, Crabbe can be overheard telling police, “All I know is that this guy won’t move and he is scaring me and he’s very Muslim and I’m scared for my life.” Crabbe did not respond to News 4’s request for comment.

Aden is a U.S. citizen who emigrated from Somalia over ten years ago. He’s being represented by the Council on American Islamic Relations, which has called for the incident to labeled a hate crime.

Tuesday at 2 p.m. at One Judiciary Square 441 4th St., NW, the D.C. Taxicab Commission is scheduled to hold a special meeting dealing with its regulation of sedans and taxi smart phone applications, which the Federal Trade Commission has raised concerns over. 

The Taxi Link airs Saturday 7-8 p.m. on WUST 1120 AM. The show is sponsored by The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers, hosted by TheFightBack’s Pete Tucker and D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B chairman Tony Norman, produced by Will Martin and engineered by Mark Taylor, with special thanks to Stefan Ilie.

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