‘I Can’t Breathe’ Protest Packs Downtown Leesburg

The streets of downtown Leesburg, which for months have been all but deserted, were instead packed shoulder-to-shoulder for the “I Can’t Breathe Walk Through Leesburg” Sunday afternoon.

What was originally planned as a quiet, socially-distant walk through the town green turned instead into one of the biggest demonstrations Leesburg has ever seen, with a line of marchers circling King Street, Loudoun Street, Church Street and back up Edwards Ferry Road. The line was so long, chanting marchers caught up to the rear of the march as they walked back up Edwards Ferry Road. There they turned to pack the courthouse lawn, spilling onto the surrounding streets.

And what had been planned as an event without any speeches instead brought speeches from the steps of the courthouse by the Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas, county Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), Rep. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-VA-10), and Leesburg Town Council member Ron Campbell, whose new group “Citizen for a Better Leesburg” first planned the event.

“If your presence means anything, it’s no more rhetoric about what we need to do,” Campbell said. “We know the changes. We’ve been fighting for them long enough. We either need to have the courage to do what we say we’re going to do, or move those aside who don’t.”

The protest came in the wake of the latest series of high-profile police killings of black people including Breonna Taylor in Lousville, KY, and most recently George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. It was named after some of Floyd’s last words, as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, and the phrase “I can’t breathe” became rallying cry for protesters again. The phrase was also prominent in previous protests following the death of another black man, Eric Garner, who said the same thing shortly before he died after being arrested in New York City.

It was also a fervent but peaceful reflection of the protests that have gripped communities across the nation, leading in some cases to riots and violent clashes with police.

“There’s one thing I know for sure: George Floyd was a tipping point, he was a tipping point, but there were so many that came before,” Randall said. She and Thomas also urged protesters to take their energy to the ballot box in November.

“Chanting, speaking, is the easy part,” Thomas said. “The harder part comes in the weeks to come, when it’s time to vote up.”

Ali, one protester, said he was brought to the protest by “a sense of being.”

“This is definitely a time when we need to stand together,” Ali said. “When I say that, I mean everyone, everyone of all colors. We have to show that what’s going on is unacceptable as a society to everyone, that we notice it, we acknowledge it and we have a problem with it.”

He said he will continue to find other rallies and protests, and said others should join.

“It’s not enough to say you support from your couch, or from your Instagram or your Twitter, it’s not enough,” he said. “This is important. Being out here is important, because the people who don’t agree with what we’re doing, people who aren’t supporting, are disturbed by our presence right now, and that’s the point.”

Other attendees said their next step will be to cast their votes.

“We need to start voting in ways that can make a difference,” said Abby, another protester. “…Everyone can come together and support a cause.”

“What we want you to do is to stay engaged,” Thomas said. “What we want you to do is to find somebody that does not look like you, that does not speak like you, and does not always think like you and make a neighbor, make a friend, make an ally. This issue is an American issue, not just a black issue.”

14 thoughts on “‘I Can’t Breathe’ Protest Packs Downtown Leesburg

  • 2020-06-01 at 6:51 am
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    Will Randall and Wexton put out a statement about the 5 cops shot in Dallas last night. Maybe they need to know what color they are before they issue a statement. And businesses are still closed per Randall!

    • 2020-06-01 at 9:52 pm
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      Of course they won’t. They will fall in line with the democrat ideology, which is anti-police. Where is Governor Blackface Northam and Attorney General Blackface Herring on all of these marches???…all lives matter!

  • 2020-06-01 at 3:35 pm
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    Town of Leesburg: I hope you didn’t just open the door for more protests that aren’t so peacefull. BTW, if you can’t breath, take the mask off.

  • 2020-06-01 at 4:57 pm
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    That whole social distancing thing was sooo last week. I’m eagerly awaiting all the commenters who attacked the reopen protestors a week ago.

  • 2020-06-01 at 6:31 pm
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    Randall seems reasonable and acts like a moderate. She’s not. She’s following whatever Northampton instructs. She’s already decided that making you guilty first and having to prove you’re innocent through the red flag law. She’s already trying to take your second amendment rights. She’s moved against 3 constitutional amendments. Next will probably be the fourth amendment by taking your property

    It’s been proven over and over again that masks and quarantine do nothing. It’s just a way to see if she and Northampton can control us. Beware. Be careful of her forked tongue

  • 2020-06-01 at 7:16 pm
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    Lots of virtue signaling going on! How else do you explain blocking roads in Leesburg, VA over an incident that happened in Minnesota? An incident where a bad cop did a bad thing and was arrested for it. What in the world does that have to do with Leesburg, VA?????? I wish I lived in the city of Leesburg so I could vote against, and actively campaign against the chief virtue signaler Ron Campbell.

  • 2020-06-02 at 10:01 am
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    It is amazing to me how dumb the GOP comments here continue to be. Their leader made a fool of himself and the country yesterday once again. Anyone who votes for GOP in November is wasting their vote. Like it or not, the GOP had their opportunity in 2016 to make changes, and right out of the chute, they squandered their chance. Now they are the laughing stock of the world. I saw a report last night on BBC4 in London with a psychiatrist saying that Trump is clearly mentally ill. He has all the classic signs of someone who is teetering on reality and this was before his disgusting “road show” yesterday. You GOP in Loudoun, Virginia and the country are fooling yourselves. There will be a clean sweep this November and the stench of anything GOP will be washed away.

    • 2020-06-02 at 4:06 pm
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      Becuase I always care about what some no name shrink in the UK says. Is it the accent Sedona, which leads you to believe they’re super duper smart?

  • 2020-06-02 at 1:30 pm
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    The upside-down Bible photo-op was the last straw for me.

  • 2020-06-03 at 8:30 am
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    This is exactly what America is all about. These protesters should be proud that they made their point, without violence. Good for them! Without dissent, there is no republic. Suppression of dissent is an abomination.

  • 2020-06-03 at 3:46 pm
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    The propaganda and myths continue in the press everywhere!

    “The protest came in the wake of the latest series of high-profile police killings of black people including Ahmaud Aubrey in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Lousville, KY, and most recently George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN.”

    Ahaud Aubrey was not killed by police. He was not out for a jog. He was fleeing a scene where he had trespassed and video proves it. Even more inexplicable, Aubrey appears to have attacked the two armed idiots who were following him against any reasonable judgement. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a case against the idiots who followed him but I’ve seen some pretty good legal analysis that indicates the charges against the men in the Aubrey case are exceptionally weak. The case may bankrupt these idiots but it probably won’t convict them.

    Now the deaths of Ms. Taylor and Mr. Floyd defy any reason and are appalling instances of police departments completely out of control. Ms. Taylor was an innocent person gunned down in her bed! Mr. Floyd was arrested over a possible $20 counterfeit bill. I’ve watched 20 minutes of video multiple times and I never saw Mr. Floyd resist.

    I cannot explain why an officer would need to kneel on a handcuffed man’s neck to “restrain” him! I also can’t explain how a man with former Officer Chauvin’s record of violence was still on the force except to note that the Democrats and unions seem to run the city, county and state where this behavior was permitted and even encouraged.

    We all need to stand against corruption in government and law enforcement. Thank goodness those serving here in Loudoun County are in fact conserved with “serving and protecting!”

    Remember these issues when people like Ms. Wexton and Ms. Randall tell you that only the state and police should have guns. Remember that the police in fact have no legal duty to protect you and your property! This is obvious from the current wave of riots convulsing the nation. You are your own first responder and you have a right and a duty to be prepared. And the riots prove categorically we have the need to exercise these rights.

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