Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Westbard cemetery protest at Planning HQ Thursday 10:00 AM
After the Planning Department stalled in reaching an agreement with two anthropologists the church sought to have oversee an investigation of the cemetery, which was already desecrated by construction workers building Westwood Tower in the late 1960s, County Executive Ike Leggett asked the Planning Board to appoint a mediator to resolve the dispute.
Evidence that has come to light, regarding attempts by the department to withhold information on the cemetery and its desecration from the Planning Board and the public, has outraged church officials. "Recently released documents exposed a vast Planning Department 'cover-up' of information led by Montgomery County Planning Director Gwen Wright regarding the African Burial Ground," the church said in a press release yesterday. "Ms. Wright took pains to conceal documents showing the location of the Bethesda African Cemetery from the Planning Commissioners, County Council, the public and indeed the County Executive, Ike Leggett. Further, freedom of Information documents and previously marked confidential records show that the county's Housing Opportunity Commission (HOC) and Equity One (EO) have been collaborating since 2015 on development plans to facilitate HOC's and EO's mutual illicit goals."
"It is the mother of all ironies that HOC—whose ostensible mission is to assist low income families, including African Americans—would collude to build a parking garage and housing on top of a cemetery that is the final resting place for many 1st generation freed Africans," said Macedonia Baptist Church Pastor-elect Rev. Segun Adebayo. "Some 60 years ago, it was collusion between the county and developers that systematically dispossessed our ancestors of very valuable land," Adebayo said. "And it is Montgomery County and Equity One who are doing the same things today. Because of Ms. Wright's role in the 'cover-up' we will not accept her participation in the planning process or the mediation."
At the last protest over the cemetery at Planning HQ, the department or Planning Board called in 7 police officers to confront protesters, and Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson surrounded himself with 3 officers when approached by representatives of the church who wanted to hand him a petition. On Thursday, the Board will have a completely-unspecified discussion related to the stalled cemetery investigation, and the public has been denied the right to speak at the meeting. Strangely, there is no staff report for this agenda item less than 24 hours before the meeting, raising further questions of transparency.