Leesburg councilman says God freed the slaves; NAACP president calls comments offensive

Leesburg Town Council member Tom Dunn 

Proclamations are supposed to be an opportunity for Leesburg Town Council to put aside politics and honor local groups and individuals. 

However, proclamations have become political for the past two council meetings after Councilman Tom Dunn wrote a sentiment instead of a signature on three different proclamations: one for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, another for LGBT Pride Month, and another for Juneteenth.

Dunn has since re-signed the three proclamations with his signature, but the Loudoun County chapter of the NAACP is calling for his resignation, and others are decrying his actions across social media.

“I’m furious. Absolutely furious,” said Mayor Kelly Burk. “I don’t want people to ever feel that they aren’t welcome in the town council.”

Moms Demand Action, Juneteenth

Elizabeth Coppage, local leader of the grassroots anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action, wasn’t surprised when she found that Dunn had written a message on the proclamation presented to her group on May 28: “People are violent Guns are not.”

Last year, Dunn wrote “I oppose all forms of violence” when Moms Demand Action received its first town proclamation for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

“There is a misnomer that we are anti-Second Amendment…. All [National Gun Violence Awareness Day] does is honor victims and survivors,” Coppage said. “We are disappointed.”

Unlike other items of council business, a single council member can request for a proclamation to be added to the agenda. Council as a whole first sees proclamations the Wednesday before the following Tuesday’s meeting. If they do not approve, they can ask staff to remove their name from the proclamation.

Councilwoman Suzanne Fox and Councilman Josh Thiel asked to have their names removed from the National Gun Violence Awareness Day proclamation. Dunn did not.

Asked why he didn’t ask to have his name removed, Dunn said that he only reads the paper -- not the digital -- agenda packet and often doesn’t see the proclamations until shortly before council meetings.

Dunn added that his response is largely a reaction to fellow council members he believes are forcing their political stances upon the entire council.

“The council, I think, is taking more of an extremist or activist view,” he said. “Proclamations can be worded to honor any group or cause without being extremely political or take a position which other citizens may oppose.”

In the interim between its May 28 and June 11 meetings, council found out about Dunn’s action when a citizen wrote a public letter. 

On June 11, with Dunn absent, Burk read a statement apologizing for Dunn’s action and said the town would issue a replacement proclamation to Moms Demand Action.

But in the hours leading up to the meeting, council discovered that Dunn had written messages on two proclamations slated for that night: LGBT Pride Month and a celebration of Juneteenth that included a line commemorating Loudoun lynching victim Orion Anderson.

Dunn did not object to the celebration of Juneteenth, but he did object to its being used to memorialize Anderson’s death, even though Dunn did vote to approve the memorials for all of Leesburg’s lynching victims. On that proclamation, he wrote, “Juneteenth is a celebration lynching is not.”

Staff immediately reprinted both proclamations but left Dunn’s signature line on both.

Dunn, seeking to clarify his position on June 19, said he believes there should be two proclamations -- one honoring Juneteenth and another memorializing the victims of lynching.

“I think that having a proclamation signed Juneteenth, which is supposed to be a proclamation of the freedom of slavery, and how that celebration has been done for 150-plus years, but then to go into a discussion of the evils of slavery and the evils of lynching – I think you diminish both topics by shadowing one with celebration, and the other should be a solemn observation,” Dunn said.

Equality Loudoun

Charlotte McConnell, a steering committee member for Equality Loudoun, was excited when the Leesburg Diversity Commission told her that council would present her group with an LGBTQ Pride Month Proclamation on June 11. Equality Loudoun had not lobbied council for the proclamation, so it was a surprise.

However, when McConnell opened her proclamation, her excitement turned to outrage. Instead of a signature, she faced a short message on Dunn’s signature line: “Everyone is equal, identities don’t help.”

“For a publicly elected person to think that way, I just felt was pretty outrageous,” she said. “I wish everyone was equal, but that is not the reality we are living in.”

Unexpectedly, the proclamation McConnell received was signed by Councilman Thiel, not Dunn. Dunn was not present for the beginning of the June 11 meeting, and after staff reprinted the two proclamations, council had to re-sign both proclamations at the last minute. Dunn had asked Thiel to sign the proclamation for him, Thiel told the Times-Mirror.

“The council should not be engaged in bringing up issues that are specifically intended and known to create division,” Thiel told the Times-Mirror. He said during the meeting, “I think we’re all children of God, and I was raised to respect all people.”

Councilwoman Fox, in an effort to provide a proclamation the entire council could support, had asked staff to add to the packet a “Love Your Neighbor Month” that would be an alternate to Pride Month.

The “Love Your Neighbor Month” proclamation honored the town’s diverse population and encouraged residents not to discriminate against fellow residents for any reason.

“I felt the [Pride Month] proclamation does not accurately reflect the feelings and sentiments of the entire Leesburg community. Instead, it focuses on a specific demographic group,” Fox told the Times-Mirror. “I do not think it's healthy for us to continue to subdivide our population based on arbitrary attributes, and was therefore more comfortable with a less divisive and more inclusive proclamation showing respect and empathy for everyone, regardless of what community someone identifies with.”

Fox asked for a discussion and vote on the proclamation and got Councilman Josh Thiel as a second, but Burk said the discussion was out of order. Fox said on her Facebook page that she will attempt to pass the proclamation during council’s next business meeting.

In the days following the council meeting, citizens and council members took to social media to decry the messages on the proclamations, and on June 14 the NAACP gathered at Leesburg Town Hall to call for Dunn’s resignation.

Burk asked Dunn to re-sign all three proclamations with his signature, and he did so June 13.

To those calling for his resignation, Dunn said, “In no way [did I] violate the Town of Leesburg ethics policy. These calls for resignation are from the same people who seek to divide all of us ... I seek equality, freedom and non-violence from and by everyone.”

Neither Moms Demand Action nor Equality Loudoun sees the proclamations as entirely negative. After sharing an image of Dunn’s signature line, Equality Loudoun received $600 worth of donations for its “Big Gay Book Drive,” an effort to get more LGBTQ books into Loudoun County schools.

Council, meanwhile, will be discussing how it should handle proclamations in the future so none of this will happen again.

“People shouldn’t be harassed coming into a council meeting,” Burk said.

______

Correction: This story has been updated to correct what Councilman Tom Dunn wrote on the anti-gun violence resolution. 

(36) comments

swampfiller

Ms. Amerigal, One of my majors in undergrad school was in Economics, which included Money and Banking, also a couple of Econ classes in Grad School. I can safely conclude, along with any noteable economist, that it is impossible to pay for any of AOC's proposed medicare or healthcare programs. Not even with a marginal tax rate of the 100% and unlimited printing of new money. Most likely there are not enough trees to make the paper to make more money nor ink for the printing of that much money. I don't know the person you attributed your opinion to, but doubt that you can find any other reputable source to agree. There is not enough money in the world to pay that bill.

swampfiller

Did some research on the term "MODERN MONETARY THEORY" mentioned by Amerigirl. The concept has been around for some time though the term is recent in the last year or so. Wikipedia has a reasonable definition. There is not enough space to get into it in depth, but those of you that were around during Carter and Reagan times might recognize the term Vodoo Economics whichb defined the major opposition to the theory ayot then time. Governments apply the monetary policy to manipulate the money supply thus manipulating unemploymnent and debt. It implies there is no such thing as government debt or deficits. This is an oversimplication nof the theory, but if you examine African and S American countries with double digit or more inflation and high unemployment it will show the problems that can arise in practicing this theory. My observation is that most of these countries are socialists and brings you back to AOC. Her plan to finance her various health programs is to print the money necessary because according to MODERN MONETARY THEORY there is no such thing as Government Debt. This is also why most economists do not accept the theory. I owe it to Ms Amergal for helping my understanding how our esteemed congressman from the Bronx and her socialist cohorts are going to pay. Unfortunately in the real world, when you borrow you pay it back. I have to get on line now and see where I can buy a printing press that prints money.

amerigirl

You might need to go back to school. If you want to really know you could read the Forbes article by Robert Hockett, If we go to war with Iran how would that be paid for? They always find the money even if it means redistribution. They could start with those tax cuts the wealth are getting.

TomPaine

Lots of false equivalency going on here. I have LOTS of Democrats as friends and not a single one thinks Northam should still be in office. The only Dem that doesn't think Northam should resign is Northam! Republicans, clean your house of these garbage people and then you'll have the moral authority to comment on Northam and others. Northam's career as a politician is over. Dems won't nominate him for dog catcher. But time and again, these reprehensible Republicans keep getting reelected & nominated (see Cuccinelli). Luckily VA is turning blue and sanity may prevail.

romano

Dems, including, I suspect, many you know, are not doing anything to put pressure on Northam to resign. If this were a Republican, they would be. So, what you are saying has zero credibility. Dems show once again that they are nothing but sanctimonious hypocrites.

amerigirl

LetSanityPrevail what ranks of racist, anti-Semitic individuals or is that? Most of the people republicans accuse of being that way are based on republican lies, partial statements and half-truths. Examples please

stopit

Dunn is a bully. Proclamations are about the recipients; Dunn thinks they are about him and his dimwit opinions. By the time he writes on them, the decision has been made to honor the citizen(s) cited in the proclamation. He is a small, ugly, mean man to spoil the honor. He brings shame to his colleagues and to Leesburg.

romano

I say we get a proclamation honoring Dunn....for calling out those seeking special recognition!

jke

Dunn shames those who pretend to be normal yet want to be special, priceless!

Locojrt

Cleaning house only allows for more "durt" to come in. There are some good Republican ideas, there are some good Democratic ideas...but unless, and until, politicians start really caring about the people and less about their "parties", we will get nowhere. Some actually get into politics with ideals and ethics, but soon learn that they will get nowhere until they "get into bed or the pockets" of the "lifers". Our whole country is a mess and led by somone with absolutely not one ounce of ethics or integrity, not to mention couth. I try to remember to respect the "office" but it's getting harder and harder. I feel all groups, good and not so, have lost sight of their purpose and mission. There was an adage long before social media..."There is no such thing as 'bad press'." Boy oh boy...look at us now! How much can we possibly get...woohoo! One last thought on the monuments and statues being torn down. There is an obelisk to Mussolini in Malta (that was dessimated) to him. The Italian response is that destroying a statue or monument is a sign of weakness and fear, not strength. They have never felt the need to "destroy" their history. It happened, good or bad; educate, learn and either don't repeat or celebrate and continue. Really people, does tearing down Gen. Lee change anything, does glorifying a hanging change anything.

amerigirl

If he thinks this shamed them he better try harder. All he did was some stupid trick to get attention. All he did is show that he is from the wrong century and made a fool of himself.

Good Guy

It's a shame that the proclamations are political and divisive. DEM comments and lies reinforce that.

amerigirl

Prove it

LIfetimeLoudouner

Very simple get rid of all general proclamations. Both sides use them for political one upsmanship. A proclamation should be only for an individual who has done something special for the community. Why waste government time and resources for anything less.

DavisB

and just how much is "wasted" on proclamations?

amerigirl

Seriously, it seems to be a thing with republicans. Remember they spent over $87 million constantly putting the repeal of the ACA on the floor when they knew it wouldn't pass because they wanted to make a statement? That was the cost to taxpayers as of 10/15, who knows what it is by now.

Lawman

Are most of the readers or commenters on LTM ill informed.. First Suzanne Fox is a stone cold hypocrite. She comes from a religion that was persecuted for who they were and what does she do, turn around and do the same to others. Adult in the room, yeah right. the NAACP and the SCLC are the only organizations in this State still actively calling for Governor Coonman’s resignation and calling out the Democrats for their hypocrisy on the issue. Imagine the Democrats outrage if Coonman was still a Republican. Maybe it’s his past Republican ties showing through. Republicans are only trying to score political points their support of white supremacy symbolism is well documented in Virginia. Tom Dunn is a little man (in his mind)band he only gets away with his antics because other’s on the Leesburg Town Council let him get away with it. He should have been censored by his fellow Council members and stuck in a box like his ideological idol Congressmen Steve King. But I think he will find Pastor Thomas more than up to the challenge of making his life miserable.

swampfiller

After reading your post I've decided, unanamously by the way

TomPaine

Yeah, most people that actually care about good government want Northam AND Dunn and all the hyper-partisan dolts to go. I'm Progressive and Northam is an embarrassment. That bears NOT A WHIT as to anyone else. This laser focus on stopping one side gaining a slight advantage is the ruination of the country. Republicans should clean house of these nitwits and bigots and it would serve them better in the long run. I'd like to see both sides put up better people but the Republicans lead the race is reprehensible people in office. But from a selfish point of view you can by all means, keep supporting science-deniers and Christian Sharia supporters. It will mean your party is less and less relevant and it will wither on the vine and die when the tide of young people that are smarter and more compassionate dominate the voter rolls.

LetSanityPrevail

Very one sided. Shouldn't the Democrats also rid their ranks of racist, anti-Semitic individuals or is that too much to ask?

swampfiller

I'm a tad confused. Do you hate everybody or just NORTHRUP?  I love your standared bearer, AOC. Everything is free, and by the time the goverment has to pay up, I'll long be dead. Your childrem and grand children and so on,, will have to pay the piper. Assuming there is a country left after the socialists and progressives get done with it. I wholeheartedly go along with cleaning house on both sides. I'd get rid of the whole lot of them. They are using up the oxygen we need to breathe.

amerigirl

Now that is hypocrisy at its finest. If you look at AOC’s policies, she has ways to pay for them. Then look at trump and how much debt he has incurred even though we are having a good economy. He promised he would eliminate the nation’s debt in eight years. Instead, his budgets would add $9.1 trillion during that time. It would increase the U.S. debt to $29 trillion according to Trump's budget estimates. We have a good economy and should be paying down the debt not increasing it. That is what your children and grandchildren will be paying off.

romano

sorry, I just had to laugh out loud when amerigirl says AOC has "ways to pay" for her policies. Anyone who has a brain in their head knows that there is no way to pay for all of them. Even her own party is running from her. Gosh, how can people not understand how insane she sounds?

amerigirl

Have you or romano heard of “Modern Monetary Theory” ?

MsIndependent

Where is the outrage from these same Democrats when they stand side by side with our current Governor who wore black face? Where is the outrage with our local Attorney General resident who admits to the same? They say they should have a "discussion" yet this same group gathers in our Town Hall for a political protest of Tom Dunn? Who allowed this? What this looks like is a Mayor who has lost control of Town Hall, a Town Manager who should not have allowed this protest within the building that taxpayers pay and you have Ron Campbell front and center trying to score political points. Tom Dunn certainly is not your typical politician but why does Ron Campbell and others not work with Tom Dunn to find a meaningful resolution instead of calling the media at the drop of the hat to garner the attention they so want to make them relevant?

amerigirl

Being a democrat I can tell you most of our outrage is at republicans who somehow know for a fact that it was Northam in blackface, that constantly repeat so many lies that they hear.You may be younger but when I was growing up if you wore colored skin to be like someone you admired it was not looked down on. Only when you were making fun of people of color was it frowned upon. My brothers friends father colored his face with charcoal for trick or treating, nobody cared. Times change.

romano

all of the groups who are demanding the proclamations are politically motivated. Three more examples of groups who say all they are after is to be treated equally demanding special treatment and recognition. Dunn rightfully called them out on it. NAACP probably has more bandwidth since they stopped actively protesting Northam and Herring.

Lawman

Funny Republicans try to get high and mighty with the Governor Coonman who absolutely needs to go but have no problem standing with Nazi’s, White Supremacist at their meetings and conventions. And let’s not even talk about their last Senate nominee, Confederate Cory White Supremacy Stewart.

CarlZ

"Councilwoman Suzanne Fox, in an effort to provide a proclamation the entire council could support, had asked staff to add to the packet a “Love Your Neighbor Month” that would be an alternate to Pride Month." Once again, Councilwoman Fox is the adult in the room. I almost hope that she does not win her senate race, because I shudder to think what the Leesburg Town Council would look like without her on it.

Loudoun4Trump

Is this all they do all day....fancy proclamations that mean absolutely nothing and no one would have even heard of until a council member pulls a sophomoric stunt...I would think the council has bigger items to bicker over -- this seems very petty on both sides....

amerigirl

Stunts seem to be a mainstay in politics. Almost like they think if they shock you enough you will have to pay attention to them.

Waterfordresident

Funny how the Democrats and other liberal leaning groups are cool with our governor being black face, but get upset for this. Talk about hypocrites...

Duncan Idaho

Funny how "christian" conservatives are cool with their president being a philandering cheat and a bald-faced liar. Talk about hypocrites.

amerigirl

Talk about hypocrite, You state as fact what can't be proven and think everyone should believe you because you are a republican so you must be right. Funny how you have no understanding of the left other than what you hear on fox t.v. That is hypocrisy. .

TomPaine

He's gotta go. He's the kind of mean-spirited bully that ruins government and only represents bigots.

Chris McHale

Perhaps he should have taken a picture in black face or white sheet and the other side would have ignored him.

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