Editor: I feel compelled to speak out regarding the actions of certain of our elected officials in organizing and/or participating in Sunday’s protest on the streets of Leesburg. Your article on this protest, published online Sunday afternoon, identified county Chairwoman Phyllis Randall, Rep. Jennifer Weston, and Leesburg Town Council member Ron Campbell among the organizers or participants
I wish to say at the outset, and stress, that my anger has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of the protest or the merits thereof. Rather, it is due to the lack of judgment, questionable priorities, and lack of concern shown for the citizens of our town by these individuals. My objections are based on two reasons:
First, given the prior and ongoing violence as close as Washington, D.C. and Richmond, and the numerous news reports of outside agitators contributing to this violence, our elected officials had no way of knowing if this demonstration, regardless of the organizers’ good intentions, would have remained peaceful (as luckily it did) or would have brought the violence to the middle of our community. This was not something the organizers could have controlled and it was only by luck that violence did not occur. This was a risk that should not have been taken.
Second, our businesses and citizens are still suffering from the closures, layoffs, and disruptions of COVID 19. We are still subject to our governor’s order limiting gatherings to 10 people. While most of the protestors, based on the photograph published in this newspaper on Sunday, were wearing facemasks, we all know by now that those masks, with the exception of N95 masks reserved for healthcare and other at-risk professionals, only protect others from an infected person wearing the mask. They do not protect other persons wearing a mask from an infected person who is not. There appeared to be several persons in the crowd not wearing masks, and at the time of the speeches, were not social distancing. The risk of increasing the infection rate in our town is significant.
Churches and other places of worship have been closed and are now subject to severe limitations. Why are the First Amendment rights of churchgoers less important than those of the protesters who blatantly violated the governor’s order? What does it say to the struggling businesses and citizens of our town, who have been trying their best, sometimes at huge cost and sacrifice, to comply with the restrictions imposed on them, that the priorities of these politicians are such that they deemed staging this protest more important than the health, livelihood and rights of the rest of the citizens of Leesburg? Our frustrations with politicians who exercised such arrogance should be voiced at the polls in November.
Sharon L. Babbin, Leesburg