Three protesters advocating for the memorization of a Bethesda cemetery site for Macedonia Baptist Church were arrested and removed from Wednesday afternoon’s Housing Opportunities Commission meeting.
The protesters arrested were the church’s minister Segun Adebayo, Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin and Lucy Perez.
Days before the meeting, some of the members said they planned to attend and were expecting to be arrested.
After refusing to leave the meeting room for five minutes, they were taken into custody by Montgomery County Police Sgt. Chris Hackley. They were released after 10 minutes and given citations for disorderly conduct – meaning that they will eventually be required to make a court appearance.
Adebayo, Slavin and Perez were among more than a dozen residents who filled the room at the HOC’s headquarters to demand the agency award them the site at 5204 River Road in Bethesda – something they have asked for since 2017, when it was discovered that there may have been graves of the church’s ancestors underneath the parking area for the nearby Westwood Towers apartments.
To symbolize the history, the protesters brought crocheted blankets designed to look like tomb stones with names on them. The church members have regularly spoken at the HOC’s monthly meetings during the public comment portion for the past several months.
“I’m not afraid of the police, and I’m certainly not afraid of HOC,” said church member Marsha Coleman Adebayo.
Among those who spoke in favor of the church’s demands was attorney and perennial Republican candidate Robin Ficker, who most recently ran for county executive.
“We want to treat our African-American ancestors with respect. That’s the Maryland way,” he said.
Wednesday’s arrests followed the arrest of four protesters at last month’s HOC meeting, who were also given citations for disorderly conduct. No court date has been set for their arrests.
Coleman-Adebayo said she planned to call County Executive Marc Elrich immediately to set up a meeting between his office and the church members.
Elrich has said he wants to resolve the longstanding impasse between the HOC and the church.
In a Wednesday morning interview, HOC chairwoman Jackie Simon has said that she is willing to work with Elrich to find a solution.
Elrich did not respond to requests made Tuesday and Wednesday for comment.
The HOC is the intermediary agency in the county responsible for owning, leasing and acquiring land used for affordable housing.
Simon said that there is no timetable set for a resolution to the cemetery matter. No development is currently planned for the site, but to determine how the land would be memorialized, a meeting between Elrich, nearby property owners, the black community and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission would be necessary, she said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com