|Protesters hold poster board|
tombstones with the names of
some of those buried in the
African-American cemetery on
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."
|Police officers negotiate|
with leaders of Macedonia Baptist Church
after protesters successfully shut down the
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."
"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.