Mayor Vince Gray‘s walk to oppose synthetic marijuana sales in Petworth last week was sidetracked when Gray encountered a store clerk who said he didn’t speak English. How, Gray wanted to know, could the man help customers if he couldn’t even speak English? Now language activists at Many Languages One Voice have produced a video where young people who are learning English respond to Gray’s treatment of the clerk. “This is really, I think, immature,” says one.
Also criticizing Gray is language access advocate Noelle Galos, who thinks the mayor might not even be aware of a law that requires the District government to provide translation services when it interacts with people who do not speak English. By not talking to the clerk with an Amharic-speaking translator after the clerk indicated he did not speak English well, the mayor could have broken that law, according to Galos.
“The mayor’s telling this guy that what he’s doing it illegal, and what he’s doing is pretty illegal,” says Galos, who wrote a blog post about the exchange.
Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for the mayor, tells LL that Gray was so insistent with the clerk because neighbors said that Petworth stores, including his, were selling synthetic pot. “They may not speak it perfectly, but they certainly understood it well enough to sell you K2,” says Ribeiro. Despite the tips, the mayor’s visits didn’t turn up any synthetic marijuana.
This should be the last of the mayor’s language problems with clerks. Future synthetic marijuana walks will feature more translators, Ribeiro says.