Thursday, June 08, 2017

Macedonia Baptist Church takes Westbard cemetery fight to HOC (Video + photos)

Macedonia Baptist Church and their supporters in the community took the cemetery fight to one of the big players in the Westbard redevelopment yesterday, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County. HOC has stayed under the radar, as the effort to stop a parking garage from being built atop a historic African-American cemetery has focused on Montgomery County and developer Regency Centers.

WATCH: Video from yesterday's protest

But HOC is an equal partner, and in reality, the driving force behind the garage plan in particular. Internal emails have exposed that HOC, like the County and Regency, were fully aware that the graves were there when they proposed building on top of them - and did so only after the public comment period had ended. Protesters were keen on letting HOC know the cat is out of the bag, and the commissioners are now on the hot seat.
Protesters filled the room at
HOC headquarters
HOC is also a party in the mediation process currently underway with the church. People familiar with the negotiations say the dynamic is highly unbalanced, with the small church group and their sole attorney having to negotiate with teams of professionals flying in from out of state. It's clear that Regency and HOC are not approaching this in a compassionate or historically-respectful way, but a purely dollars and cents calculation. All the more reason for protesters to leverage what's worked best for them thus far - people power.
Macedonia Baptist Church's
Harvey Matthews (L), Marsha Coleman Adebayo (center)
were joined by County Executive candidate
Robin Ficker (R) at the meeting
The cemetery is now shaping up to be a major campaign issue in 2018, with the Westbard vote being the equivalent of the Iraq War vote in Congress. If you voted for the Westbard plan, you're essentially toast in that part of Bethesda, as well as in allied communities like Lyttonsville, Damascus, and the neighborhoods that were threatened with bus depots by the inept and corrupt County Council. As evidence of the political weight the cemetery issue will wield, candidates are beginning to declare their support for the church and preservation of the cemetery.
Montgomery County Young Republicans
VP Dan McHugh comments on the
cemetery controversy during a press
conference live-streamed on Facebook
In attendance Wednesday, and offering promises of support for the church, were County Executive candidate Robin Ficker, Democratic County Council District 1 candidate Bill Cook, and Montgomery County Young Republicans Vice-President Dan McHugh. Other politicians who have already expressed support include Councilmember Marc Elrich, State Senator Susan Lee, and County Council District 2 candidate Edward Amatetti. The church has also received help from District 16 Delegate Marc Korman.

Yesterday, protesters were also joined by a new ally, John Adams, Director of the Afro-American Child Care Association, a group with over 400 members.

Not so gung ho about preserving the resting place of the first generation of freed slaves in Maryland was - not surprisingly - the HOC. Two church representatives were given the chance to address the Commission, but chair Jackie Simon made clear the topic would not be discussed publicly at this time.

"We know that our cause is just," associate minister Charlie Davis said at a press conference after the protesters filed out of the board meeting, "and we will persist in the fight, no matter how long it takes."


Anonymous said...

this is dyer's real voter base. ten people.

dyer is "essentially toast" in the next election (as usual)

SaveWestbard said...

Thank you for covering the demonstration. Please support the Cemetery Legal Fund at:

Mad Dog said...

The MOCO council may begin to pander to the church group acting like they're interested in their cause, (even though they could care less), but the church will eventually be completely smacked down and then kicked in the head.

It wasn't long ago Berliner met with small groups in Westbard to find some common ground he claimed only to turn around and vote 100% for Westbard overdevelopment and favoring his rich developer friends interests. Corruption and greed is a powerful combination. Good luck to the the church but I'd bet the farm the developers prevail.

Tim said...

9:38AM The end result of the Westbard Plan was decided early on with those private meetings with the developers. The rest was for show. Dyer's reporting showed that Berliner's staff was already talking about EYA luxury townhomes as a done deal before the public even weighed in.

This Westbard Plan debacle really needs an independent investigation.

Anonymous said...

These folks have my respect for standing up to some very powerful forces in Montgomery County.