Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Macedonia Baptist Church wins a concession on cemetery, occupies MoCo Council (Photos)

Macedonia Baptist Church's "Justice Tuesdays" protests at the offices of the Montgomery County Executive and County Council continue to have an impact on the controversy over the African-American cemetery on the site of Westwood Tower in Bethesda. Developer Regency Centers had been scheduled to deliver results of a controversial private investigation of the cemetery to the Planning Board on June 9, at which time the Board would have been free to greenlight development of a parking garage atop the graves. Yesterday, church leaders received word that the cemetery item has now been removed from the Board's June 9 agenda.

Initially, the June 9 item was replaced with a June 1 "briefing" on Regency's cemetery investigation, a study that barred church officials and two anthropologists who specialize in African-American burial grounds from monitoring the work. But that briefing was also canceled in a second victory for the church. "There will be no briefing on June 1," Planning Director Gwen Wright wrote in an email to Council President Roger Berliner's office, "and no other action is scheduled at this time."

Church officials are now scheduled to begin negotiating terms for a more legitimate cemetery investigation with a County arbitrator in the coming weeks. County Executive Ike Leggett has promised that the County will pay for the investigation, if the church can agree on terms. The cemetery has existed for a century at the site off Westbard Avenue and River Road. While documents exist to prove the graves are there, no documents have been found to indicate the bodies were relocated through any legal means. The graveyard is currently hidden below a parking lot and at least 60' of fill dirt, after being desecrated during excavation for Westwood Tower in the late 1960s.

After rallying in front of the County Council building yesterday, protesters entered the building to stage another silent vigil during the Council session. However, after several previous Tuesdays of protests, the Council chose to adjourn an hour earlier than usual.

Finding an empty Council hearing room, protesters "occupied" the County Council chamber, and later, their offices upstairs. To let the Council know they'd been there, protesters left signs and posed for photos under the closed-circuit TV screen that said, "Recess," to show the Council couldn't escape the protest by recessing the meeting early.

Upstairs, all Council members emerged from an elevator at their office floor, and - with the notable exception of George Leventhal (D - At-large) - ignored church leaders and protesters as they walked back to their offices. Leventhal spoke to the group for several minutes. A staff member for Councilmember Marc Elrich provided copies of the emails and letters from Elrich and Wright, and offered to set up another meeting with church officials for early next week. Elrich has been supportive of the church over the last several months. Other councilmembers...not so much.

"I have a budget to put together," Berliner said to Macedonia Baptist Church social justice director Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, as he breezed past the group trying to flag him down. "We have a cemetery to save," replied Coleman-Adebayo.

Macedonia Baptist Church
occupies the County Council

Recessing the meeting can't
stop the protest

Occupy County Council


Roald said...

I like the "truth in planning" sign. Much needed!

Anonymous said...

Return of Fat Chinese Dude!

Anonymous said...

This is becoming ridiculous. I really love how they're hijacking the "Black Lives Matter" movement, which started as serious concerns of real police brutality and unwarranted killings of African Americans. Now anti-development NIMBY's have perverted it for their own purposes.

Of course Dyer is more than happy to play along, using the situation as a further excuse to trash the developer and the county.

Anonymous said...

Bodycount's "No Lives Matter" speaks directly to that.

Robert Dyer said...

7:00: Can you explain your novel theory of how black people can "hijack Black Lives Matter?" The excuse to criticize, not trash, the developer and the County is provided by the developer and the County, for being so tone deaf on a serious matter like desecration of a cemetery for private profit. And then treating the church so disrespectfully, while having a history of treating black landowners in the county as second-class citizens (i.e. Farm Road).

No one advocating for the cemetery has anything to gain personally from the issue; the folks trying to build a parking garage on it do. It seems your criticism is misplaced.

Anonymous said...

Dyer is deliberately missing 7:00's point, which is that Old White NIMBYs* are using Dead Black People as a pretext to keep Live Black People out of their neighborhood.

*Plus one middle-aged Fat Chinese Dude with no visible employment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the coverage, Robert; I'm sure the fat cat developers are dismayed at the possibility of not being able to completely overdevelop every square foot of the Westbard neighborhood. Let's hope the Purple Line loses funding, too.

Robert Dyer said...

7:16: Hate to break it to you, but there are already black people living in the neighborhood. Tell Dan Reed to update his Westbard census. If you think the gentleman you're referring to in the photo is middle-aged and fat, you desperately need to visit Warby Parker for a new pair of glasses.

What is "visible employment?" A sign around your neck that says, "LAWYER?"

You're the guy saying to truck away the bodies of the first generation of freed slaves in Maryland, so a $4 billion company can make a buck, and YOU are trying to play the race card? Hysterical.

Robert Dyer said...

7:18: Yes, I hope the judge stands his ground until after June 1. Gov. Hogan will otherwise regret his surrender on the Purple Line on Election Night 2018, because his decision will cost him a lot of votes in MoCo and Prince George's County, as well as in the counties that are paying for it but don't get anything out of it.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for this nonsense to end and for this development to happen once and for all.

Anonymous said...

I would really respect anyone who chained themselves to the plot to make a point. I wonder if Robert feels passionate enough about this to do a hunger strike or something that would really force the issue and get the council's attention.

Anonymous said...

"What is visible employment?"

Not wearing a cheap t-shirt in the middle of a work day.

Robert Dyer said...

7:37: The pastor said he will lay down on the ground there if necessary. Is that good enough for you?

7:40: Should he have worn a tuxedo? Give me a break.

7:34: Hello, Regency Centers.

Anonymous said...

Sure, Dyer. Let a black man do all the hard work for you.

Anonymous said...

So the only possible things that someone could wear to work are

1) A cheap t-shirt

2) A tuxedo.

Brilliant logic there, Dyer.

Anonymous said...

But Robert, since this has been your story and you have been displaying these strong emotions, do you care enough to help the cause by laying in front with the pastor out of defiance for the council?

Anonymous said...

Big news about Quincy's.

I'm surprised that Dyer didn't hear about this, given that the agent is in the same building as his buddy Robin Ficker.

Robert Dyer said...

8:24: You just humiliated yourself again.

I reported that story way back on May 4. May 4! Clown move, bro!

The reporter also embarrassed himself yet again by not stating, "as first reported by Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row...2 weeks ago."

#Oops #microwave #beepbeepbeep

Anonymous said...

"Yes, I hope the judge stands his ground until after June 1"

I'll assume that "standing his ground" means neglecting his sworn civic duty.

June 1? Work will be suspended on June 1, but the Purple Line is still moving forward. I'm surprised they've managed to get as much done as they have after losing approval. The private partner says that they're on board for at least a few more months, and Congress has funds allocated through September.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the Church, its supporters and those in MoCo government (Ike Leggett, Marc Elrich) who are treating the Church with respect.

The cemetery issue is not a matter of being pro-development or anti-development. It is a matter of comprehensively investigating the site to determine where the cemetery is/was located and using the findings to plan the site respectfully.

This is also a matter of honesty/transparency in the planning process. The Planning Department should have released its historic findings on the cemetery in 2015, when it released the results of the rest of its historic research.

Had the Planning Department/Board been honest and forthcoming with the Church and the community, we wouldn't be having protests now.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that Roger Berliner has supported mediation on the cemetery site. I also wish that he'd continue to be supportive of the Macedonia Baptist Church. If Mr. Berliner refused to pause and converse with the Church protesters, that is extremely disappointing. Macedonia Baptist Church is in Mr, Berliner's district and the protesters are his constituents, They deserve courtesy and a fair hearing.

Anonymous said...

The "Truth in Planning" sign captures the issue perfectly. The County has been giving the public short shrift throughout the Westbard planning process.

Anonymous said...

7:00 and 7:16: Those who resort to name calling have mighty weak arguments. You should have learned that in grade school. If that's all you've got, you've got nothing. Stop embarrassing yourself/yourselves.

Anonymous said...

History will be judging the Planning Board and Council in how they handle this!

Anonymous said...

Stall this long enough and the Westbard development will never happen . . . same approach being used against Purple Line.

Roald said...

It's heartening to see residents defying this Council and occupying the chambers.

And the protests are bearing some fruit.
The more public pressure we can apply to the Council, the better.

Anna Van Horn said...

Leaving the signs in the meeting room was genius. Remind them without angering them. I may not agree with the whole thing, but I agree with their right to protest and get their voices heard.

Whoever had the idea...kudos!

The truth is "hate speech" only to those who have something to hide