Thursday, October 05, 2017

Westbard cemetery protesters shut down HOC meeting (Photos)

Protesters shut down yesterday's meeting of the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission, after commissioners declined to add two items related to the Westbard cemetery controversy to the agenda, despite an advance request by cemetery advocates. HOC is seeking to build a parking garage on top of the graves on the site of Westwood Tower, a property the commission plans to purchase from developer Regency Centers. Cemetery advocates had asked the commission to vote on the two proposed agenda items Wednesday to protect the graveyard.
Protesters hold poster board
tombstones with the names of
some of those buried in the
African-American cemetery on
Westbard Avenue
Commission Chair Jackie Simon began the meeting by announcing that anyone in attendance would have an opportunity to speak for three minutes at the end of the meeting. She warned attendees that "chanting, singing or other disruptive behavior" would be forbidden, and the "disruptive party" asked to leave. Simon reiterated the commission's previous position that it could not discuss the cemetery due to litigation underway in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Macedonia Baptist Church representatives have pointed out that there is no reason HOC cannot discuss the cemetery with the church, because MBC is not a party in any lawsuit against HOC.
"Give us
the vote!"
Simon also formally acknowledged receipt of a letter from MBC's Social Justice Director Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, and of more than 400 petitions from members of the community asking the HOC to allow an archaeological investigation of the cemetery, and to terminate its plan to build the garage on it.

When protesters peacefully approached the commissioners, Simon declared their effort "useless." Commissioner Richard Y. Nelson, Jr. told the African-American church representatives to "return to the back of the room." "You know, a bus driver said that to Rosa Parks," Coleman-Adebayo replied. Recounting the driver's threat to Parks that he would call the police if Parks didn't move to the back, Coleman-Adebayo quoted Parks in her response: "'You may do that.' I'm saying that to you."
"This reminds me
so much of what
was going on in
the South"
Protesters then began to chant, "Give us the vote!" as commissioners conferred on the dais. As chanting and singing continued, Simon temporarily adjourned the meeting and commissioners fled to an adjoining room, as protesters sang, "Jackie Simon, we shall not be moved." Montgomery County police officers summoned by the HOC stood at the front of the room, and said protesters were welcome to stay if they would allow commission business to proceed, or move their protest outside of the room.
Police officers negotiate
with leaders of Macedonia Baptist Church
after protesters successfully shut down the
HOC meeting
HOC's legal counsel again asserted that there would be no votes on the cemetery at the meeting. Eventually, she turned to the officers and said, "We are at an impasse." The Rev. Segun Adebayo, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, asked why the HOC came to mediation sessions with the church this summer and wasted their time, if they never intended to discuss the matter and take action. That mediation mysteriously was ended by the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County abruptly last month.
"We are at 
an impasse"
Police officers, it should be noted, handled the standoff in a respectful and professional manner. "I literally cannot remember if I am living in Montgomery, Alabama, or Montgomery County," Coleman-Adebayo said. "This reminds me so much of what was going on in the South, where you had police officers telling people who were only fighting for their rights to be quiet." "I'm not telling you to be quiet," the police officer negotiating with them said. "How can you be a part of this?" Coleman-Adebayo asked a second officer, who was African-American. "This is part of your history. Your ancestors could be under that ground. This is an environment of injustice. And how can you be a part of this? Please think about it, the next time you put that uniform on, because this is not justice at all."
"How can you be 
a part of this?"
Coleman-Adebayo asked the officers how they felt about being left to handle the argument while commissioners hid behind them in the next room. "Let them have the courage and the backbone to come out here." After 15 minutes of negotiations, the Commission emerged and reconvened the meeting.

When the public comment segment of the meeting began, resident Monica Goldberg asked that the cemetery not be "re-desecrated in the name of affordable housing." She said it shouldn't be so difficult to get a delineation of the cemetery to identify the locations of "bodies under the asphalt. That shouldn't be so hard," for the Commission. "It really shouldn't."
"Moral high ground?
You haven't got it on
this one, folks"
"Moral high ground?" asked resident Kevin Berends. "You haven't got it on this one, folks." "There is no moral backbone on this committee," Coleman-Adebayo testified, before leading a recitation of the names of some of those buried in the cemetery. Harvey Matthews, who grew up in the River Road African-American community associated with the cemetery and is a trustee at Macedonia Baptist Church, decried the repeated characterization of the cemetery by HOC and other County officials as hypothetical or speculative. "It just hurts me to come to these meetings and be told that the 'alleged cemetery'...."

"This should not ever be a debate," said Laurel Hoa, a resident representing Showing Up for Racial Justice - Montgomery County. "We should be better than this." She argued that descendants of those buried in the cemetery "deserve a place they can sit and be with their great aunt or great uncle." Hoa asked the commissioners to reflect on "the real harm that you are doing to the descendant community."

Ralph Wooden, whose great-grandfather bought the land he lives on along River Road, has a family cemetery on his property. But Wooden is white, and he noted that he and other white people rarely have to worry about a developer building on top of the graves of their ancestors. Black cemeteries deserve the same respect and protection, he suggested.

The testimony appeared to have an impact on at least one commissioner. After all cemetery advocates had spoken, Simon was attempting to move to the next agenda item when she was interrupted by Commissioner Margaret McFarland, who said she wanted to comment on the testimony. "I really appreciate all the statements and the input that we got from our guests today. I think it's very helpful, and very informative, and thank you for making statements that we can consider as we move forward."

"This could be the tipping point," Coleman-Adebayo said after the meeting adjourned, "where they realize they've hit a wall." Commissioners will have to weight whatever pressures they are under to stick to the development agenda against the potential that action against a black cemetery will follow them in their future political careers in progressive Montgomery County.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you go on a Tuesday, you can really hit them hard. #JusticeTuesdays #TurnUpOnTuesdays

Anonymous said...

"It just hurts me to come to these meetings and be told that the 'alleged cemetery'...."

Is there any actual evidence that there is a actually a cemetery on the site. And if there is, how did it get paved over in the first place?

Robert Dyer said...

7:12: Yes, land records on file with the county and burial announcements. The first mystery is, who bulldozed the tombstones in the 1950s? And did each landowner inform the next about the cemetery when the land changed hands. Finally, at least two accounts corroborating the discovery of bodies during Westwood Tower excavation in the late 1960s.

Anonymous said...

They found seven headstones at that cemetery. They said "Andy Van Slyke", "Tim", "Friends of Woodmont Triangle", "Elm", "I Remember Giffords", "Maloney Concrete" and "Roald". That's proof that it exists.

Anonymous said...

Bunch of lunatics.

Anonymous said...

"This reminds me so much of what was going on in the South"

How do they feel about your nostalgia for the Confederate statue that was in Rockville until this summer?

Anonymous said...

Scooped.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/negotiations-stall-over-vanished-african-american-cemetery-in-bethesda/2017/10/04/b41bb346-a93a-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html?utm_term=.c5e0133d2ead

Robert Dyer said...

7:39: It's not my nostalgia, but rather, the County political cartel's desire to whitewash the popularity of the Confederacy in Montgomery County during the Civil War, and its very real legacy of slavery and racism. That's just one reason why our County officials aren't exhilarated by the idea of a River Road museum that would preserve that racist history for future generations. With the cemetery and a museum, we would have a living history site with a direct connection to plantation-era Montgomery County. Real plantation, actual slaves who established their own community right there once freed. Not just a cabin somebody slaps a fake name on because they thought it would add to that phony sheen of "Montgomery County was on The Right Side of History in the Civil War!!!" that the cartel so desperately wants to preserve.

Roald said...

You can't scoop Dyer on this story. He has been the leading source of information.

Robert Dyer said...

7:46: Check again - that article didn't have the full story of yesterday's events, and was strongly weighted toward the HOC and the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County. #FakeNews

Fortunately, you can read the full and accurate story here.

Moreover, I reported the terminated mediation when it happened - last month.

Anonymous said...

Robert, do you believe that the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County is part of the MoCo Cartel?

Anonymous said...

Ha, there certainly were more abolitionists in Montgomery County than there were slavery supporters.

Anonymous said...

What is real news? I give up? What sources other than Robert can we trust? CNN is full of lies, Fox is full of lies, the Post is full of lies, the Times is full of lies, hell even Bethesda Magazine is full of lies.

Robert Dyer said...

8:06: Until they explain why they canceled mediation all parties were available for...yes.

8:30: If that were true, we wouldn't have had to be occupied by Union soldiers to prevent secession to the Confederacy. Not only were there many slavery supporters, but more importantly, many slave OWNERS in Montgomery County.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Nothing but nonsense by the church. The current property owner bought the land legitimately from what we can tell. They didn't steal it.

The Church should be going after the previous owner for selling it, or the title insurer if there is a question of boundaries or land ownership.

Anonymous said...

"return to the back of the room"

I'm ashamed of our Council, HOC and Planning Board.

Robert Dyer said...

8:58: Whoops, accidentally deleted your comment while trying to respond to it. You referred to my roots in Montgomery County and asked if my ancestors owned slaves here. I think there is a misunderstanding - I am a lifelong resident of Bethesda, but my family roots in MoCo do not extend much prior to my lifetime. There is no history of slave ownership in my family that I have come across yet.

Anonymous said...

Were you, or were you not born in Arlington, Virginia?

Anonymous said...

Wonder if Dyer has room on his shelve for the Pulitzer and his Oscar for the movie on covering this story?

Anonymous said...

"'This could be the tipping point,' Coleman-Adebayo said after the meeting adjourned, 'where they realize they've hit a wall.'"

Bad mixed metaphor there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this information!

Anonymous said...

Notice how Robert Dyer never criticizes his homeland of Virginia for seceding, or its heritage of slavery (500,000 slaves in 1865), or for being a de facto santuary for MS-13.

Rugby said...

Dyer's troll is obsessed with changing the topic away from what appears to be institutional racism in the County.

Robert Dyer said...

4:55: You seem to be in denial that Maryland was a slave state also, and shares that heritage of slavery.

Yes, Ralph Northam, Sharon Bulova, and the I-66 trolls of Arlington County have been friends indeed to MS-13. But it was Montgomery County that the MS-13 capos singled-out as the place they intend to make their stronghold in the coming years, citing the sanctuary county policies and large number of unemployed laborers and students they intend to recruit into the gang.

That was reported in the Washington Post, by the way, not Breitbart!

Robert Dyer said...

10:39: I was not born in Arlington. But, carpetbagger news flash: No one can be born in Bethesda unless they are born at home or to a military family at Walter Reed; Suburban doesn't deliver babies. I am a lifelong resident of Bethesda who was born in a hospital outside of Bethesda, like most other lifelong residents of Bethesda. Wake up.

Anonymous said...

Holy Cross delivers babies. Takoma Adventist delivers babies. Nearly all the hospitals in Washington DC deliver babies.

Anonymous said...

"The MS-13 capos singled-out Montgomery County as the place they intend to make their stronghold in the coming years, citing the sanctuary county policies and large number of unemployed laborers and students they intend to recruit into the gang."

#ArgleBargle

Anonymous said...

Does the church invite multi nationalities? Is it an inclusive church, or is it based solely on one race? Do we want to continue down the road of racism? In the future, I would think what has happened to the confederate statues will happen to any organization that is based on race. If we want to abolish racism, promoting a church based on one race is not the right thing to do. The issue of the cemetery should not be based on African American’s, it should be based on the sole fact that graves were paved over. End Racism. Move Forward. The past is ugly, and the future does not need the reminders of our past. Promote unity, and put an end to groups of people who band together based on race. Play together, and remove yourself from groups based on race. #EndRacisim

Anonymous said...

6:44 AM The first thing I think when I read articles in The Washington Post is "great article..I have to know what hospital the writer was delivered in"

Take a step back and realize how strange your obsession with Robert Dyer is.

Anonymous said...

No one cares about the name of the specific hospital in which Robert Dyer was born. Readers wonder why someone who claims to be a "lifelong resident of Bethesda" was born so far away, outside Montgomery County, outside the state of Maryland, on the far side of the metropolitan area.

Robert Dyer said...

8:19: You just have to be a resident all your life to be a lifelong resident. It doesn't matter what hospital you are born in, moron. You don't live in a hospital, you idiot.

Anonymous said...

9:01 AM How more clear does Dyer have to be? He's a lifelong Bethesda resident.
You don't receive resident status based on which hospital you were born in. Clearly you don't have children.

You've been obsessed with this point for years now.

Henry Darnall said...

Who cares if Dyer is a "carpetbagger or not"? Robert to me has great ideas for how to change the status quo and can be a great voice of the people.

Anonymous said...

Dyer's self-proclaimed "competitors" and troll have always been envious of Dyer being a life long resident.

It is an advantage to know the county so well, compared to the freelancers based outside of the county, who have never lived here :)

Are any other local publishers life long residents?

Anonymous said...

I was born at Suburban Hospital in 1962. Your statement is false. Update or redact it. I appreciate your blog, but get your facts straight or don't just make a general statement like that.Otherwise keep up the good 'on-the-spot' reporting and pictures.

Robert Dyer said...

11:47: While it's certainly possible for a mother to give birth anywhere in an emergency, including Suburban Hospital, the hospital does not have a labor and delivery department. In fact, the Suburban website will direct you to Sibley for those services.

2:45: Short answer: No.