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|