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Leesburg Town Council condemns hate, racism

96-year-old World War II veteran Frank Watkins was honored by Leesburg Town Council Tuesday for Black History Month. Times-Mirror/Elizabeth Stinnette
Frank Watkins, a 96-year-old World War II veteran and lifelong Leesburg resident, waved enthusiastically to the packed council chamber giving a standing ovation. Born and raised on what is now South Street -- and raised in part by an aunt who cooked for George C. Marshall -- he later served his country in a segregated engineering company. The company’s white commander lobbied for his troops to fight in the Pacific theater, and just as they shipped out, the war ended.

“Through it all, here I am,” Watkins said.

Leesburg Town Council honored Watkins—and stood with other members of its diverse community—to pass a unanimous position statement Tuesday night condemning the recent spate of KKK flyer drops around local neighborhoods.

“Leesburg values the diversity within our community,” Mayor Kelly Burk said. “By this statement we’re making tonight, we’re saying just that.”

The statement says that Leesburg “denounces and rejects all ideologies based on hatred and intolerance,” that it will support any law enforcement investigations and that it will encourage federal and state attorneys to seek charges against any hate group that violates the law.

Leesburg’s response came after what some have viewed as months of official silence. When fliers were first dropped in October, local police said they could do little to charge the unknown offenders. However, after additional distributions in January and February, as well as drops in Purcellville and Upperville, police are cooperating with state and federal law enforcement to investigate the matter, Leesburg Police Department spokesman Sam Shenouda said.

Earlier this month, while some individual members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors condemned the fliers, the board as a whole refused to issue an official statement.

“I think … it is imperative that our community knows where we stand, and this is not something to be tolerated, not something to be condoned, and not something to be silent about,” Leesburg Councilman Fernando Martinez said. “We are not afraid, and we will stand up to racism.”

NAACP President Phillip Thompson commended council and encouraged officials to vigorously investigate.

“This is a probe,” he said, adding that the fliers could be a precursor to violence akin to the Charlottesville riots last year. “Don’t let these people come into our community and divide us.”

Councilman Ron Campbell agreed, sharing several times that he or his family were targeted with racial slurs. The fliers, he said, target Jews and any white people who support minorities, not just African-Americans.

“It’s insulting to everyone in this community,” he said.

One hitch in the unanimity came later in the evening when council voted to renew a memo of understanding between Leesburg Police and the NAACP. According to the MOU, both groups agree to support youth programs that encourage positive interactions with police, have their leaders meet quarterly and provide training.

Councilman Tom Dunn, who did not support the creation of the town's Diversity Commission in 2015, voted against the MOU, noting a personal feud with Thompson. Dunn tried to disclose personal emails with Thompson before Mayor Burk called a point of order, saying the information was not relevant to the vote at hand.

"The mayor claimed I was out of order because the MOU had nothing to do with Phillip Thompson," Dunn told the Times-Mirror. "Yet he is signing the MOU and his position within the NAACP is able to meet quarterly with the police chief."

For the most part, though, the night was one of agreement. Burk, Campbell and Vice Mayor Suzanne Fox wore orange ribbons in solidarity with the McNamara Orange Ribbon Campaign launched in Purcellville, and Supervisor Kristen Umstattd came wearing an orange skirt suit.

“Each and every one of our citizens deserves to feel safe and not to feel intimidated in any way, shape or form,” Fox said. “We want to let you know that as council, we do have your back.”

Clarification and correction: This article has been updated with comments from Councilman Tom Dunn. It has also been updated to correct attribution of the final quote, which was spoken by Suzanne Fox, not Kelly Burk.


Trump is hearing footsteps in a great example of leftists not able to deal with opposing opinions….wishing the media would shut them down…waaahhh!!

Liberals tell us they are tolerant, enlightened, and informed. But then this one below wants comments he/she disagrees with to be hidden, at least from his/her view. Interesting.

I think you’re safe in assuming that those who are trying to act like this stuff is no big deal…just one bad apple who went a bit too far over the line…well, they’re people who feel the same way but don’t act out their hate or bias every day (content as they are to vent their spleen here in the comments and whatever they yell at the TV).

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that you’ll find this is the same crowd that always finds a reason to say we need no more gun regulations and that Trump and his incompetent leadership are good for America.

I wish LTM would adopt an “ignore this commenter” service.

Glen -

It happens all the time. 

Glen B - Maybe you can fill me in - What was the hateful message.  So far I haven’t seen any. As far I’m concerned, it’s trash & should be thrown away, except for the bird seed - there’s lots of starving birds out there.

Hoax?? What evidence of hoax is there in this series of events? Do you think that someone is doing this to create division! That is “absurd”!

The Town Council has yet to condemn the drowning of puppies.  Shame on them!  Their silence if proof of their approval of this act!

We are giving one or a very small number of people a lot of power.  LTM daily coverage.  Town Council special gathering and statement.  NAACP president fully engaged and fueding with a town council member.  No doubt this is the most attention and power the flier loser has enjoying in their entire life.  And we fall for it hook, line, and sinker.

Glen -  I am in the camp that finding out who is responsible first is the main issue. Too many hoaxes have happened lately to automatically assign blame.


Silence is consent?  That is absurd.  No one in their right mind would support these.  My comment was designed to communicate my belief that the Town Council seems to be wasting its time by stating the obvious.  The suggestion that I support these horrible messages is just another absurd attempt to divide.  If the Town Council was somehow pressured to make this statement by an organization, I suspect that organization is simply using this situation to advance their own goals, and we should be wary that someone associated with that organization may be involved – similar to other recent examples.  (One at UMD comes to mind.)  I hope whoever is doing this will get outed soon.

golden, I disagree. This lit drop activity has been going on for months, if not longer. I am in the camp of those who believe silence is consent.

Glen - What people are suggesting is that multiple articles a week and proclamations seem to be a bit much based on what has happened.  Lets find out who is behind this first. It looks like whoever is doing it reads this paper and is loving the attention.

Rusty and SWSWSW, are you suggesting that the folks distributing these fliers are mentally ill? westLoudoun, do you think leaders should not take a position on the distribution of hate literature? I am not sure what “identity politics” means, but if condemning those who promote hate and bigotry are practicing identity politics, I am in their corner! I notice that none of you (the three I mentioned) have objected to these literature drops in our community. Why not? WesternSky, your snark also seems to put you in the position of support of these messages. Have I misread your position?

Rusty777 is correct, the Left (and this newspaper) spends so much time on identity politics that we’ll never be just plain, un-hyphenated “Americans”.

We spend a LOT of effort making sure that everyone knows we aren’t racists. Hopefully folks realize that there will ALWAYS be fringe kooks among us.

I for one can not apologize for every mentally ill person in my community.  My actions speak louder than my words and I truly believe what I do is ALWAYS more important than what I say.

Bold move on their part - they are so courageous.

One day this KKK Flyer distributor is going to get caught on somebody’s security camera and then find themselves on every news outlet.

They might not be committing a crime, but the public spotlight ought to ruin their lives. Most likely their employer let them go in a show of support against their employee’s belief. It’s just a matter of time until this person slips up.

Thank you, Leesburg Council!  I was growing very concerned that you all supported the hate and intimidation.  I can sleep better tonight. 

However, I am still a little worried about your position on animal cruelty and child labor, and can only assume you support.

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