Free speech was chilled on December 8, 2021, when only five (5) speakers were allowed to speak at a McLean Community Center (MCC) board meeting and then for only three (3) minutes each. That night, three (3) speakers spoke against this board’s policy to engage and pay handsomely drag queens to indoctrinate children as young as toddlers at the MCC and the Dolly Madison Library. When it was my turn to speak, I indicated to the board that news report allege that some quarters at the MCC engaged in anti-Catholic bigotry and that the board should consider whether two provisions of the Code of Virginia involving crimes may have been violated by these events. My attempts to have the board secretary distribute handouts - printouts of one even-handed Fairfax Times news story and a letter to the editor - to all 11 board members failed as most board members refused the handouts.. One board member, Carla Post, who would not take my handout, repeatedly asked whether my handouts had been submitted to the board members before.
A mild-mannered group of speakers – one prominent lawyer; a former US Ambassador; and a property manager uniformly opposed this board’s drag queen story time efforts; one visitor though made a veiled rambling presentation seeming to link board opponents to Ku Klux Klan men.
Applause for one opposing voice triggered Chairperson Barbara Zamora-Appel to threaten all visitors with expulsion for disruptive behavior and admonish us that while applause may be acceptable at a theater, it would not be tolerated here. Visitors meekly complied with her illegal demand; this board chose not to embarrass themselves by attempting to shut down the only push back from visitors who indicated their approval of subsequent speakers with finger snapping. Sort of reminded me of how American POWs in the infamous Hanoi Hilton jail run by the Viet Cong were able to elude communication restrictions by tapping out some sort of code to reach out to other prisoners.
Self-congratulatory assertions by board members abounded about its diverse makeup; their great performance; and how they were advancing equity and diversity goals – indeed, they indicated this was their top priority. Self-congratulation continued with their pick of Daniel Phoenix Singh as MCC director although his biography seems to indicate he has had no prior management experience of the sort appropriate to a community center if any at all. When I complained that even the Nazis would not have prohibited applause, Director Singh instantly revealed he is really in charge by directly Zamora-Appel how to handle my critical remark with expulsion. Threats were even made by one board member to call the Fairfax County Police. We have learned from expensive FOIA searches that this board has been considered changing its rules to bar the public altogether from its regular meetings. How MCC Board meetings are held should trouble all Fairfax County citizens.
Nicholas Kalis, JD