For the second time in less than a year, the corner of King Street and Market Street in Leesburg’s downtown became the site of a candlelight vigil.
Residents, police, and elected representatives and candidates for office gathered to share thoughts and prayers before the vigil after deadly shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas.
“I want to say the names of all the victims this week, and I want us to pause and take those names in after I say them, because it’s easy to say ‘the five police officers who were slain,’ or ‘two more black men were killed,’ but then they’re not people,” said Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).
She then listed the seven people whose deaths have made headlines in the last few days: Alton Stirling, in Baton Rouge, LA; Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, MN; and Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith in Dallas, TX.
“These were flesh and blood people,” Randall said. “They were fathers, they were husbands, they were cousins, they were friends, they were men. And you can’t just say things like ‘this many black men died’ or ‘that many police officers were slain.’ We have to feel them as individuals. If this madness is going to stop, we have to say their names.”
Loudoun NAACP President Phillip Thompson, calling on his experience litigating cases of police violence, urged attendants not to jump to conclusions in the cases of police shootings.
“Things look real bad, things look terrible on camera,” Thompson said. “And I’m not making any excuses for law enforcement at all, and we all know there are some law enforcement officers who do things that are not aboveboard.”
Leesburg Town Council candidate Ron Campbell called on people to come together not just in times of sorrow.
“It’s no small thing when we believe that we can come together, not just when there are times of distress, but to really reflect on the unity that we have all the time, and that’s why there are so many people here tonight,” Campbell said.
“It is important that we unite, not just because of what’s going on tonight, but our county is dependent on our unity,” agreed Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries Pastor Michelle Thomas. “Whether we survive, whether we exist as a great nation depends on our ability to love one another and live in peace.”
Sheriff Mike Chapman and Leesburg Police Department Lieutenant Patrick Daly affirmed a commitment to community policing. Chapman said over 200 deputies have had training in crisis intervention already, and the department conducts annual diversity training.
“There are too many people in this country that seem to want to turn this into a war,” said Leesburg Mayor Dave Butler. “I don’t feel that here. We don’t have that.”