On June 22, more than 250 residents of a Virginia county piled into a local school board meeting. Most of them were there to voice their objections to a controversial critical race theory curriculum as well as proposed pro-transgender rules.
Jon Tigges, a Loudoun County resident, was one of the concerned parents.
While he was due to make remarks during the public comment session, the Loudoun County School Board cut the proceedings early, citing disruptive behavior by the crowd.
But Tigges wanted to press on.
“You could feel the tension in the room, and people started singing the national anthem,” he told The Epoch Times.
“It’s a public meeting; they have canceled the meeting. We have every right to continue to speak, whether they’re going to listen or not. There’s a whole bunch of cameras here. Let’s get the word out. Let’s let the rest of the world hear how we feel.”
So he stayed and organized speeches from audience members who hadn’t gotten a chance to comment during the session.
“I knew I could stand up on a chair. There’ll be enough people that knew me that would quiet everyone else and they would listen.”
But after about half an hour, the superintendent declared the gathering an “unlawful assembly.” At that point, Tigges decided it was time to stand his ground, and he refused to leave the room. So he was arrested by deputies for trespassing.
Tigges’s arrest thrust him into the national spotlight overnight. Within 24 hours of his release, he did a dozen media interviews, including on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News.
On Sept. 22, Tigges was found guilty of trespass, a decision he’s appealing. During the court hearing, Loudoun County school Superintendent Scott Ziegler acknowledged the unlawful assembly announcement as something “incorrect.”
In Tigges’s view, what happened in Loudoun County is “a microcosm of what the rest of the country is facing.”
“Every major institution in our country has been taken over by enemies of the Constitution. We spent the last more than 50 years losing it in retreat. It’s going to take decades to win it back,” he said.
Many conservatives have described Loudoun County as “ground zero” in the battle against lockdowns, critical race theory (CRT), and pro-transgender policies in schools; while liberal media outlets have referred to the county as a flashpoint in the “culture wars.” Either way, Loudoun, a wealthy county in northern Virginia, has become a showcase of grassroots disagreement with the policies and the way of governing by those in a position of power, elected or appointed.
The county school superintendent has repeatedly said that the schools don’t teach CRT, a doctrine that contends that U.S. institutions and society are systematically racist. However, some parents and teachers say that the school system instills in teachers tenets from CRT, particularly in so-called “equity training,” which then has a trickle-down effect on students.
For Tigges, CRT, which ostensibly promotes racial equality, in fact, drives more division, and runs “completely counter the value this country was founded on, which was to unite people.”
Tigges’s fight began way before June. An agritourism business owner, he took action in 2020 against the state’s lockdown policies: Last June, he sued Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam so that he could reopen his business; For more than six months, he protested against the COVID-19 lockdown every Friday morning in front of the county government building in Leesburg.
Since his arrest, Tigges has continued to speak up against the county policies virtually and in person.
What makes him so fearless and perseverant when others who share his views are afraid of speaking up? Surprisingly, “peace” was the theme throughout the interview.
“It wasn’t fun to be arrested. It wasn’t fun to have the head bashed into the paddy wagon,” said Tigges. “But I knew at that point I had complete peace. God was going to use this to shine a disinfecting light on the Loudoun County School Board. And he did.”
At Peace With Life and Death
“The greatest paradox of living is that you have to die to live,” he said, adding that he didn’t mean physical death, but more like making a tough choice or letting go of the fear.
The first time he found peace with death was in northern Iraq in 1996. He was in a safe house protected by the Peshmerga, the Kurdish branch of the Iraqi armed forces. On the first night, he believed he could die at any moment. He relinquished a lot of fear upon realizing his life was not in his own hands.
Tracers were going by his window, and his thoughts were relentless, too. He wasn’t supposed to be there. Before the trip to Iraq, he learned that he had been selected for a doctoral program in Colorado. Then he learned that a general’s favorite might be chosen for the program in his place—though he was assured that this wouldn’t happen. Later, he was informed that unfortunately he had lost his seat in the doctoral program. And in addition, the Air Force was sending him to Iraq for four months.
Knowing that he shouldn’t be at the front of the line for Iraq, he had a choice: to raise the issue or simply go. And the timing wasn’t great. His fourth child was just one month old, and his widowed father-in-law was scheduled for open-heart surgery. Eventually, Tigges decided to “step forward faithfully and have confidence” in God’s plan. Following that, “an amazing peace struck,” he said.
His experience taught him that “being afraid of a virus or some bully politician or administrator is ridiculous.”
“We have nothing to fear. If you’re doing the right thing for the right reason, truth wins in the end,” he said.
Right Here and Right Now
Similar experiences have occurred many times since then when he was up against challenging situations.
“It’s not always pleasant,” he said, but doing the right thing for the right reason resulted in things working out by themselves in the end.
How he ended up in Loudoun is also such a story.
After 9/11, his work in the Air Force brought him to Virginia from Montana, reluctantly so. When a stroke disabled his father-in-law, he decided to invite him to move in. As a result, he bought a lot in Loudoun to build a custom residence that could host a family of eight and a grandfather. Yet shortly before the construction finished, his father-in-law died of another stroke.
By that time, the financial crisis had hit; Tigges had to stay in Loudoun to pay off some bills. He looked into acquiring property for event business, but all deals fell through. Then after the barn in the last agreement burned down in a fire two days before closing, he and his wife thought of moving back west.
The next day, while trimming trees, a neighbor who had crossed Tigges’s path informed him of two lots for sale. Within two weeks, they finalized the deal, and Tigges had a business to run.
He said he didn’t want to leave Montana. He didn’t want to build his place initially, but it was the right thing to do for his father-in-law. Then it led to a business opportunity. He didn’t want to deal with the government anymore, but running a business put the government right in his face.
“God has continually challenged me in those ways. And when faced with it, just to be able to say, ‘Am I supposed to take care of my father-in-law? He has no place to go.’ ‘Yes, then we will make the sacrifices to do that.’ ‘Am I supposed to stand up against tyranny when it’s in your face?’ And no one else wants to be the plaintiff; then I need to be the plaintiff. I need to be willing to put time and treasure and fight back against clear tyranny.”
Patriot Pub Alliance
In April, Tigges hosted the first “Patriot Pub” event at his 24-acre farm in Hamilton, Virginia. He wanted to offer people a venue to meet and discuss in person. His event business made it possible. As a start, he invited those who joined the protests in Leesburg, Virginia, in 2020.
Shawntel Cooper, who was in one of the first viral videos of public comment during a Loudoun County School Board meeting in May, was one of the early Patriot Pub guests.
“It was cold outside, but it was about to be spring,” Cooper told The Epoch Times about her first meeting of about 20 people in April.
She credited Patriot Pub as the “backbone of the beginning of everyone’s fight, taking a stand for their freedom,” adding, “everyone in the community has played a part in being warriors.”
And Patriot Pub has kept up its momentum. In September, Tigges rolled out a Patriot Pub Alliance mobile app to “mobilize action” and build on “crowdsourcing initiatives.” He said it would be the mobile platform to help conservatives self-organize without censorship from Big Tech.
“I’ve got to stop saying, ‘Who’s going to do something?’ When there’s an opportunity for me to do something, then I need to step forward. We can’t live anymore in a world where we vote every other election and think that’ll take care of itself,” Tigges said.
Through the Patriot Pub events, “people connect in a much deeper way. And they begin to trust one another and go to bat for one another,” Tigges said. “And that’s why, on June 22, I felt completely unafraid to stand there and be arrested. As I knew, I had hundreds of other people that had my back, and still do.”