By TJ Davis
In response to attorney and activist Gene Stilp’s flag-burning at the Loudoun County Courthouse Tuesday, fewer than 20 people rallied in front of Leesburg Town Hall later that evening. The uniting rally was held by the Loudoun chapter of the NAACP and led by chapter president Phillip Thompson.
Stilp and Thompson spoke with each other before the meeting began.
“Keep burning,” Thompson laughed. “I just can’t participate. We’re held to a different standard. A black man burning Confederate flags is seen a little different than a white man burning a Confederate flag—they react a little differently.”
During the Rally, Thompson spoke on the importance of the community working together for civil rights.
“My concern is that if you were in Charlottesville and you saw what came out—that was very powerful and it was very real,” Thompson said. “We want to be sure that we address that here in Loudoun County. We oppose white supremacy, Nazis, the Klan, and their new title the alt-right. We oppose them without question, but we’re not going to confront them in a way that they want us to confront them, like what occurred in Charlottesville.”
Thompson also brought three members of the community to offer words of encouragement and empowerment. Author, journalist and attorney Sophia A. Nelson, Hurunnessa Fariad and Rabbi Amy Sapowith of Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation also spoke.
“What a great country we live in,” Nelson said. “In this country you can burn the flag. You can use the first amendment, you can speak up in protest. And then we can gather like this and we can have a response to it. Thomas Jefferson who wrote the words ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet he owned over 400 slaves in his lifetime. I think that’s the discussion we’re not having in this country. The start of this great America, was half slave half free. And if you fast forward 241 years later, we’re still struggling with race. As Condoleezza Rice said ‘It is America’s great birth defect.’ Race is our great birth defect.”
TJ Davis is a summer intern at Loudoun Now, studying journalism at Liberty University.