A new community organization is hoping to energize the Leesburg community and keep them engaged on issues of importance.
It was an eventful inaugural week for Citizens for a Better Leesburg, a group organized by Leesburg Town Councilman Ron Campbell. Supporters gathered on Memorial Day at the historic African American Mt. Zion Community Cemetery in Leesburg to place American flags on graves of veterans. It was later that day that news broke on the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis, MN. Video footage that has been widely circulated shows Floyd struggling to breathe while an officer kneels on his neck, with Floyd pleading, “I can’t breathe,” an image strikingly similar to the 2014 death of a Eric Garner in New York and following recent high profile deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
Floyd’s death has led to a week of unrest across the U.S., as the black community and its supporters stage demonstrations on injustice and police brutality. It led Campbell and those involved with the new community organization to schedule a peaceful demonstration in front of Leesburg Town Hall on Sunday afternoon. The demonstration soon became much larger than anticipated, and led to a peaceful march through the downtown area and speeches on the Loudoun County Courthouse lawn.
Campbell said Monday he has been fielding calls from supporters on how the group plans to follow up with Sunday’s massive event, which drew upwards of 1,000 attendees. He said the goal of Sunday’s event was to show Floyd’s family and the people of Minneapolis that the Leesburg community cares about them.
“I’ve been asked all day when’s the next protest,” Campbell said. “We’re not a protest organization, but what you should be thinking about is how you stay well informed, how you volunteer. Activism sometimes is raising your voice. I think we want to be that conduit to help people get engaged, stay engaged, and find ways to engage. There’s enough volunteer opportunities, boards, commissions, community organizations. I think this is a great time for the town to see some different energies. We need to make sure every voice matters.”
Campbell said he had the idea for Citizens for a Better Leesburg in 2018 during his mayoral bid.
“I registered the Facebook page in 2018, thinking about what kinds of opportunities there are to help our community and engage voices. But I didn’t want to use it as a political arm; I wanted to use it as an advocacy group,” he said. “A few weeks ago, I was just talking with some of my advisors about my own future. The idea came up, why do we have to wait for elected officials? There’s enough good energy out here to do things without politics and getting involved in a partisan way.”
The group has already started polling the community on another—how residents thinks Leesburg should use the $4.8 million in CARES funding the town has been awarded by the federal government, a matter expected to come before the Town Council next week. Campbell, whose council term is up at year’s end, has stayed mum on his own plans for public office, but has big hopes for what the community group can achieve.
“I think what we want people to see is a very diverse group of interests, political backgrounds, interfaith populations willing to partner on any issue that gets brought to us.
Most organizations are so one-issue dedicated. We want to help everybody do everything they want to do by activating the community, but we don’t own any issue,” he said. “We really do believe there’s enough good people in Leesburg and a small group of people have enough good connections that they can be a resource or conduit to help facilitate change. We’re not a problem-solving group, we’re not a protest or action-oriented group. We’re a group that’s concerned about Leesburg and we want to help however it’s necessary.”
There is no formal membership or structure to the organization as of yet, Campbell said, and interested community members need only follow the Citizens for a Better Leesburg Facebook page to stay involved. Although there are no additional events planned at press time, information on those will also be posted to the page.
To find more information, go tofacebook.com/Citizens-for-A-Better-Leesburg-483158138866345.