A July 22 Page One article about a Virginia blogger incorrectly stated that Faisal Gill, a Republican candidate in the state's 51st House District, is the first Muslim nominee to the Virginia General Assembly. Another Muslim, Republican Kamal Nawash, ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 2001 and the state Senate in 2003.
Muscling a Web Site Into a Social Movement
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Illegal immigrant ice cream vendors might be spreading leprosy in Manassas. Prince William County has been infiltrated by "unassimilated marxist radicals." Manassas Park police covered up the predations of five Hispanic men who gang-raped a woman in the street in June.
These claims, among others, have been made in recent months by Greg Letiecq, whose popular blog, Black Velvet Bruce Li, offers "Blog-Fu for Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park politics" -- often making up in passion what it lacks in proof.
But Letiecq (pronounced LUH-teek) is not some mouse-pushing crackpot with a keyboard and an Internet connection. In the past 18 months, Letiecq has leveraged his blog to help elect allies, kill off opponents' campaigns and shape local public policy. Peers call his site the most influential local blog in Virginia.
Since April, Letiecq has used his blog to sign up more than 500 members for his anti-illegal immigrant organization, Help Save Manassas, quickly building it into one of the region's most effective social movements. He and his group researched, facilitated and wrote parts of the illegal-immigration resolution that Prince William officials adopted this month, working with the Washington-based Immigration Reform Law Institute.
The resolution -- approved unanimously July 10 -- seeks to deny services to illegal immigrants and sharply increase immigration enforcement by police. Its sponsor, John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville), is Letiecq's district representative and also a member of Help Save Manassas.
"We worked with Stirrup" on the resolution, Letiecq said. "Our legislative committee helped transform it to fit Virginia codes."
Said Stirrup of the group's role: "I felt comfortable with what they were doing, and we vetted it with our county attorney."
A former insurance salesman who works as a programmer in the defense industry, Letiecq has seemingly been everywhere lately -- on national and local television, at local Republican party events and rallying his troops to "victory" at the July 10 board meeting.
His movement has tapped into a wellspring of simmering anger over illegal immigration and a general unease about the large influx of Hispanic residents who have moved to the region in the past decade, sparking suburban clashes over such quality-of-life issues as overcrowding, language, even lawn care.
Much of the illegal-immigrant backlash that has spread to Loudoun County and elsewhere in Virginia can be traced to the computer annex in the basement of Letiecq's suburban Manassas home. There, behind the stairs, he runs his two deeply entwined operations as blogger and activist leader amid a clutter of camping gear, papers and his young daughters' toys.
"We're inspiring people," Letiecq said. "A lot of citizens felt like there was nothing they could do."
When Letiecq isn't helping write county policy in Prince William, he can be found writing material of a different sort as Black Velvet Bruce Li. Among the ranks of the online martial artists who spin and strike across the so-called blogosphere, Letiecq is a virtual ninja, practicing character assassination, innuendo and exhortation with the skill of a black belt.