Leesburg police seek protesters in sidewalk vandalism

The Leesburg Police Department is seeking the public’s help in finding the people responsible for painting on the sidewalk on the edge of the Virginia city’s historic district during a protest last week.

The protest took place last Friday, just before 7 p.m. The painted message was in Spanish and translated to “free them all!”

Police said they received a report of approximately 20-25 people wearing black masks on the sidewalk in the 400 block of South King Street. When police arrived, they found the message painted in large blue letters on the brick sidewalk, and a protester using a megaphone.

“A subject who claimed to be the organizer of the group advised that they are protesting for the release of all inmates currently incarcerated in a detention center in Farmville, Virginia,” the police department said in a statement.

The center is the site of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak inside an immigrant detention center.

Police said officers requested the protesters lower their volume. The group was offered the chance to clean up the paint on the sidewalk. The group said the paint was washable and easily removed.

However, police said the paint couldn’t be removed that evening, but has since been removed by the town’s department of public works.

Police said they would like to hear from witnesses to Friday’s protest. Anonymous tips can be dialed into the Leesburg Crime Line at (703) 443-8477. Information can also be sent via text, by texting 274637, and beginning the message with LPDTIP.

At the height of the outbreak at the Farmville facility, some 90% of the center’s nearly 300 inmates tested positive for the virus, and a 72-year-old detainee died.

A federal judge last month banned the facility from accepting new transfers after criticizing a “bureaucratic circus” that allowed the transfer of a large group of detainees from Florida and Arizona without any quarantine, which violated the jail’s own policies.

U.S. Justice Department lawyers have asked the judge to lift the ban.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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