LEESBURG, Va. (7News) — Cornerstone Chapel's Senior Pastor Gary Hamrick started his service a little differently on Sunday. The Leesburg, Virginia pastor notified his church about the Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group.
“Before I get into the Bible study -- how many of you've been hearing on the news this Loudon Love Warriors thing? Okay. For those of you who don't know, ABC 7 broke this story,” said Hamrick. “And it's kind of gone national. My phone was blowing up during the week.”
Last week, 7News revealed how some members of the Facebook group made violent threats and plotted ways to get people fired from their jobs after they spoke at school board meetings.
“Others on this Facebook page have been targeting specific people,” said Hamrick to the congregation. “There's over 100 people on their target list and a whistleblower within the group has made this known. There's over 100 people, many of whom on that list are members here at Cornerstone Chapel. Our church made the list.”
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“Some of you have been harmed by this group,” added Hamrick. “And here's my take on it. This is middle school nonsense.”
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares told 7News his office is monitoring the situation “very closely.”
“If it rises to a level for a formal investigation, we will obviously announce that and let people know, but right now Sheriff Chapman has the lead on this,” Miyares said.
READ MORE | 1-on-1 with Loudoun County Sheriff Mike L. Chapman
7News spoke to Miyares about the group, which has members who appear to be associated with several Loudoun County elected officials and candidates.
“I think it was very disturbing to see a group of individuals some of which obviously, were staffers for elected leaders in Loudoun that were openly advocating for violence and intimidation against private citizens that did petition their government with their concerns. And that's something that's one of the most precious freedoms we have in this country -- is your ability to let elected officials know when you think they're doing their job well, or more importantly when they're not happy with the job they're doing," Miyares continued. "And I don't think that's a trend any American should want to see. And so I was very disturbed by that. I think it could have a chilling effect on those that want to speak out and speak about their concerns whether it's a school board meeting or a city council meeting or a House of Delegate meeting. Nobody should be worried about speaking out and then facing some form of potential violence or intimidation later.”
SEE ALSO | Loudoun County sheriff investigates threats made in 'Loudoun Love Warriors' Facebook group
He told 7News that the Loudoun Love Warriors activities are “disturbing.”
“One of my favorite quotes is from Ronald Reagan, who said ‘How can you claim to love your country if you don't first love your fellow countrymen?'" added Miyares. “And I think that is something critical and needed in our political discourse. The sad thing is these chats, these individuals clearly are thinking that they are somehow protecting democracy, but by openly advocating violence against their fellow man and fellow countrymen, they're actually undermining democracy. That's what makes it so disturbing.”
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“A lot of people who were targeted were parents who spoke out at Loudoun County School Board meetings,” Hamrick told his congregation on Sunday. “I wish Loudoun County would get some national news for some good reasons. We're going to give the nation good reasons to wake up to what's happening in Loudoun County because we're going to tell them what God is doing in Loudoun County. But anyway, Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. So let's do that.”
READ | Loudoun social media group, some allegedly tied to elected officials, threaten residents
The members of Cornerstone prayed for members of the Facebook group and for protection over their church.
“Lord, we just give this group to you. We don't know everything about them and who's behind it all, but we give them to you and we pray that you would deal with them. And Father, we pray that you would protect us, protect those on the list, and that you glorify yourself through this, and we just give them to you and we just give this whole matter to you. Thank you for your protection, Lord, and thank you for watching over us in Jesus’ name. And everybody said amen," added Hamrick.
A LOOK AT THE ALLEGED THREATS
After Loudoun County resident Mark Winn spoke at a school board meeting in December 2022, one person in the “Loudoun Love Warriors" said they wanted to find Winn’s employer and hold the company accountable until he is fired. That same person and others wrote:
“It shocked me,” Winn said when he learned of the specific messages in a 7News interview.
What shocked Winn, even more, was a series of messages from people in the “Loudoun Love Warriors," who wrote:
Despite the violent comments, a Loudoun County real estate agent appears to have posted Winn’s address in the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group.
The “Loudoun Love Warriors” group includes people who appear to be associated with Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj, County Supervisor Juli Briskman, School Board Chair Ian Serotkin, school board member Brenda Sheridan, school board member Atoosa Reaser, school board member Erika Ogedegbe, school board candidate Anne Donohue, sheriff candidate Craig Buckley, and Chair Phyllis Randall. None of these elected officials personally made any threats.
Every Loudoun County elected official and candidate who appears to have associations with members of this Facebook group refused to answer questions on camera from 7News on May 9, May 10, May 11, May 12, and May 15. However, some issued statements after the story ran Tuesday.
“Violent threats are never acceptable and at times can be criminal. I personally condemn all violent language and my office will be investigating whether a crime was committed. Due to the possibility of a criminal investigation, I can not comment further at this time," Biberaj said in a statement to 7News.
In a statement to 7News, Randall stated, “No threats of violence are ever appropriate in any way, in any place, at any time, from anyone. I strongly condemn any use of violent language in any capacity. Those that use violent language are not welcome in the Loudoun Democratic Party.”
Buckley released this statement to 7News stating that he condemns violence:
“As a career law enforcement official, I’ve seen how violent speech can spur violent actions. Violent threats in any form will not be tolerated, especially those intended to inhibit First Amendment free speech rights of those we might not agree with. I condemn all speech that threatens violence," said Buckley.
“Although I have no knowledge of the incidents to which you are referring, I fully condemn any and all threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation,” Reaser told 7News in an email after 7News requested an interview with Reaser.
After 7News requested an interview with Briskman, she told 7News in an email that “I will not be commenting for your story.”
"I am not familiar with the Facebook group you cite - "Loudoun Love Warriors." As a long-term resident and the Commonwealth's Attorney for Loudoun County, I hope for meaningful dialogue and less rhetoric in social media. One's First Amendment rights are vital to democracy and our core principles of freedom and justice in America," Biberaj said in a statement to 7News after the story aired. "I have sworn to uphold the United States Constitution and will do so with every fibre of my being. However, if anyone makes threats which cross into being unlawful, I have faith that our local law enforcement is equipped to investigate the matters. If their investigation results in findings of violations of criminal law, then the legal process will be initiated and take its course."
“As a School Board member, I and my colleagues have been the subject of countless death threats and other violent acts. Any violent language or threats used anywhere in any capacity is abhorrent and is against the principles of our democracy. I do not condone any such behavior or anyone I associate with making or tolerating such threats," Serotkin said.
"A news story yesterday reported allegations of threats made against Loudoun County residents in a Facebook group chat. Before yesterday, I was not aware the group existed and I have never been a member. I condemn in the strongest possible terms violence or threats of violence from any source and on any medium. I intend to keep my campaign focused on building community and consensus to make decisions in the best interests of LCPS students," At-Large Loudoun County School Board Candidate Anne Donohue told 7News in a statement on May 10.