Loudouners from many faith backgrounds gathered for a prayer service and candlelight vigil Friday night in response to the latest rash of Ku Klux Klan recruitment fliers found in Loudoun driveways.
Before walking to the Loudoun County Courthouse with candles, the crowd packed the Leesburg Presbyterian Church to hear from several community and faith leaders, including representatives from Hindu Temple of Virginia, Northern Virginia Bahá’í Center, All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Loudoun Quakers and several other churches.
Ahead of leading a prayer, Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera Vicar, of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, blew an orange whistle that hung around his neck. Sailors blow this whistle when they’re in distress, he explained.
“Why did I blow the whistle? Because I’m asking God to help us,” he said. “This is our cry for help.”
County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) told those gathered that she’s been on the phone almost every day this week with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Attorneys Office. Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman connected her with representatives from their offices after she asked for more information about what was being done to investigate the incidents.
“I told them some say this is just kids playing around, others are saying the Klan is taking over the county, neither of which is true. So what is true?” Randall said. “They told me they found a cell outside of the state who are trying to recruit in Loudoun County and other areas.”
She said in an interview with Loudoun Now after the vigil, “It’s not that it’s nothing. … We need to react, but we don’t need to react in panic.”
She expects more information to come out about the individuals behind the KKK pamphlets next week.
More KKK recruitment fliers were found in Leesburg, Lovettsville and Paeonian Springs last weekend.
Rizwan Jaka, chairman of the ADAMS Center’s board of trustees, said his hope is that the community continues to “respond to bad with good.” He announced another planned event in response to the fliers: Congregation Sha’are Shalom Synagogue will host Love Your Neighbor: Hope Not Hate from 6:45 to 9 p.m. Monday, March 5. The program will feature Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, and Tony McAleer from Life After Hate. McAleer is a former white supremacist working to help others leave extreme organizations.