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Business owners say they were targeted by members of Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group

Parallel Wine and Whiskey Bar owners says they were the targets of the Loudoun Love Warriors. (7News)
Parallel Wine and Whiskey Bar owners says they were the targets of the Loudoun Love Warriors. (7News)
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As the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate threats against county residents who spoke at school board meetings, 7News is learning more about the Facebook group called the Loudoun Love Warriors.

But long before some people in this group made threats against parents, 7News learned they started by targeting some local small businesses.

RELATED | Loudoun Co. parent says she's getting more threats after speaking at school board meeting

Jason and Angela Bursey reopened Parallel Wine and Whiskey Bar and Bistro in June 2020 after struggling to survive during COVID-19 like many small businesses.

“We were locked down trying to do food to go, trying to do anything and everything to retain 60 employees, which was almost impossible, keep them paid, keep our employees locked in so that we didn't lose them in that period of time so that when we were able to reopen, we had that employee staff to be able to continue on with the business,” said Jason.

To this day, the Burseys say they’re still feeling the impact of being targeted by members of the Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group three years ago.

Although it’s unclear if the Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group was active on Facebook in 2020, the Burseys say members of the group allegedly targeted them in June 2020.

READ MORE | Virginia AG reviewing Loudoun Love Warriors discussion on 'forged signatures'

“It turned into they were planning to organize protests. They were circulating our address, our restaurant. They were saying ‘Burn it to the ground, burn it all down.' My license plates, my kids' profiles online,” Jason added. “We had teams of Loudoun County sheriff's [deputies] that were here in our development, in our neighborhood, protecting us -- making sure nothing was happening, checking in on us constantly making sure we are ok.”

“I was getting screenshots from people of houses burning – memes of houses burning - with my address underneath, people saying ‘let’s loot this place up tonight homies’. It was frightening,” Angela said.

Parallel sells beverages, food, and T-shirts. There was one shirt they sold in 2020, as other major retailers did that said “Drunk Wives Matter.”

SEE ALSO | Virginia AG is monitoring Loudoun Love Warriors 'very closely' as investigation continues

Jason said his business sold the shirt for years before he took them down in June 2020.

“Somebody had given us wine glasses [a couple of years prior to 2020] that said ‘Drunk wives matter’ which you can buy anywhere,” said Jason. “We thought it was funny, perfect for the concept [of the restaurant], so we put it [the t-shirt] on the wall. Somebody reached out and said ‘Jason in light of everything that is going on, we saw the shirt on the wall, we think it might be a little sensitive for certain people right now. What do you think?’ I said’ Hey, you know what, I’ve never even thought about it. I’m just trying to get my business reopened and I think you’re right.’ So I took the T-shirt down that day.”

Jason said he stopped selling the shirts after George Floyd was murdered in Minnesota.

Days after he removed the shirt, Jason said one person posted the shirt on social media and some people began to accuse him of being a racist.

In June 2020, the Washington Post reported that Loudoun County resident Heather Gottlieb said her “social media post started the controversy.”

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The controversy over the shirt received national attention from multiple media outlets.

“I didn’t realize it would blow up like it did,” Gottlieb told The Washington Post in June 2020. “It appears it needed to.”

“This is an attack on our business,” Jason said as he described the June 2020 ‘hit job’ on his business. “An attack on our livelihood, an attack on our lives and children. An attack on our neighborhood. An attack on everything that we could possibly hold near and dear to us was attacked with very specific intent to destroy.”

He described the experience as “the world was crashing around me nationally. All over the country.”

“Phone calls [saying] ‘you're racist, you're racist,' ‘don't go to that place," Jason said. “Facebook, Yelp, every review site, hundreds and hundreds of phone calls, hundreds and hundreds of Facebook messages. Everybody attacked me. The Washington Post, NBC, CNN, all the news outlets calling me.”

He said he tried to address the issue on his Facebook page at the time.

“I did a Facebook Live trying to address what was going on about how I was being attacked, how I was being targeted by one person, falsely targeted by one person who had a very specific intent to do so,” Jason said. “This wasn't the first time she [Gottlieb] tried it.”

MORE | 'It's appalling': Officials react to learning Cornerstone Chapel was on Loudoun 'hit list'

Two weeks ago, Gottlieb told 7News she is a member of the Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group.

“I’ve sent emails to people’s employers,” Gottlieb told 7News two weeks ago.

7News reported how some people in the Facebook group discussed how they emailed people’s employers in an attempt to get them fired from their jobs and some members in the Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group made threatening statements against residents after they spoke at school board meetings.

“Definitely things were said they shouldn’t have been,” Gottlieb told 7News two weeks ago.

As far as 7News knows, Gottlieb has not personally threatened someone’s life, and neither have the elected leaders she is associated with.

Gottlieb did condemn some of the violent rhetoric that occurred in the Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group.

RELATED | Loudoun social media group, some allegedly tied to elected officials, threaten residents

Gottlieb, like other members of the group, have been active on local Democratic campaigns, including Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj’s campaign.

On Monday, Gottlieb told 7News in a statement, “I will never stop calling out racism, homophobia, transphobia, or other hateful rhetoric.”

Angela said Gottlieb’s comments in 2020 about her husband and their businesses were untrue.

“This was absolutely untrue. Completely untrue. We are not racists,” Angela told 7News. “We are none of those things whatsoever.”

“Quite the opposite,” added Jason.

“I just want to make sure this stops and it’s not going to happen to anybody else,” said Angela.

The owners of Parallel hope that local leaders on both sides of the political aisle will speak out against the tactics some members of the Loudoun Love Warrior’s group use against local businesses and residents who speak at school board meetings.

“I would ask that it can't be allowed,” said Jason. “I mean, you can't just recklessly go attack someone, their business, their community, their kids and without repercussion on both sides. And with the political climate as it is, it's very divisive already. The direct attack from one individual to another with malintent, it shouldn't be allowed for.”

Jason said after the attack on his business in June 2020, several magazines no longer featured his business like the used to.

“They left me in the wake of a path of what they had creative of destruction that had never went away,” Jason said. “Blacklisted completely, whole communities would call us and say ‘listen, just so you know, you've been blacklisted in our community’. HOAs sent out letters and messages letting them know to ‘boycott that restaurant.”

Angela said when she saw the list of people who were in the Loudoun Love Warrior’s Facebook group, some of them were the same people who went after her business.

“It's the same names I'm seeing that are going after parents who are speaking up about their children,” said Angela. “It’s the same group of people. Where is the accountability? This is evil behavior. You cannot dox people. You cannot threaten their lives you cannot try to ruin their lives. It’s just wrong.”

She said local leaders, including Rep. Jennifer Wexton, have been silent about the activities of people in the Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group.

“I think we need to elect leaders that that will stand up and say this is completely unacceptable,” said Angela. “I haven't heard from Wexton. Silence from her. I think right is right and wrong is wrong. You’ve got to protect your communities, and you can't allow people to threaten you. I think some leaders need to get louder, much louder.”

Rep. Wexton sent 7News this statement Wednesday after this story aired.

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"I do not condone any threats of politically-motivated violence," Rep. Jennifer Wexton told 7News in a statement. “Hateful words can have dangerous consequences. There is never a good reason for a disagreement on policy or perspective to turn personal in a way that could harm another or their family."

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