Activists continue to protest to preserve historic African cemetery

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BETHESDA, Md (WDVM) – Montgomery County activists lined the sidewalks for the second day in a row to protest construction on top of a historic African cemetery.

Protesters are demanding for construction of a storage facility to cease at parcel 177 on River Road where they claim hundreds of black people have been buried for hundreds of years.

Cultural Property Crime Specialist Tammy Hilburn said the Bethesda Self-Storage Company was required by the county to hire an archaeologist to survey the construction site.

“We don’t know if an archaeologist has been hired,” Hilburn said. “Furthermore, the stakeholders, the African American descendants who are associated with the cemetery have not been contacted by an archaeologist, and we see large scale excavation going on.”

Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition President Marsha Coleman-Adebayo said they are calling on County Executive Marc Elrich to declare eminent domain on the site and to cease the construction.

“If these were the bodies of even confederate soldiers, by now they would have been talking about eminent domain. If these were unknown soldiers with no names, no backgrounds, they would have been talking about eminent domain,” Coleman-Adebayo said. “But because these are African people, they’re putting a self-storage company on top of them. That is structural racism.”

Coleman-Adebayo said these protests are only the beginning and they will continue as long as the construction does.

The Cemetery Coalition filed a work stoppage order on Monday against the Bethesda Self-Storage Company, pending a transparent review of their methods and compliance with archaeologists.

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