A group of supporters fighting to save the site of an African-American burial ground in Bethesda, Md., gathered at a church across the street from the cemetery to demonstrate Sunday.
According to WTOP-TV, the Macedonia Baptist Church on River Road was once part of a thriving community of freed slaves.
“This is really a protest demonstration,” Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, chair of Macedonia’s social justice ministry, told WTOP.
Coleman-Adebayo said that the rally was the latest event in an ongoing effort to stop a parking garage from being built over the burial site. She said that 90 percent of the cemetery had been turned into a parking lot in the 1950s.
“The county is definitely shutting us down,” Coleman-Adebayo said, adding that the rally was meant to send a message to Montgomery County, Md., policymakers that church members and the community don’t want the burial site to be desecrated again.
According to the Washington Post, the Montgomery County Commission was frustrated by the accusations that a parking garage was going to be built where the burial ground once stood, so it issued a statement last week to make it clear that that was not happening.
The statement read in part:
While the commission is sympathetic to the concerns raised, it cannot make any statements on the matter at this time due to a pending lawsuit involving the property, except to explain that at present, and for the foreseeable future, the commission has no plan to develop the property. The commission intends to purchase Westwood Tower and operate it in its current state. In keeping with the master plan process for this property, the commission will conduct a study should it decide to move forward with any development on the site.
Shauna Sorrells, the commission’s director of legislative and public affairs, told the Post that the parking garage allegations are based on sketches that were drawn up two years ago as part of a master plan process that was never acted on.
Church members are demanding that a museum or memorial be built on the property to honor the black community that once lived there. They are also concerned that the commission’s statement gives no indication that it won’t change its mind about building the parking garage later on.
The commission’s statement indicates that it will conduct a study of the site if it decides to move forward with any development.