Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Hate crime report filed with USDOJ regarding desecrated Montgomery County cemetery

A protest of a Democratic Party fundraiser in Potomac this past weekend by advocates for the desecrated Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda has borne political fruit. The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition announced today that it has filed a hate crime report with the U.S. Department of Justice, as advised by U.S. Congressman Jamie Raskin (D - 8th District). Raskin, who along with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore was one of the targets of the protest at the Saturday event, has told the BACC that he will follow up with the DOJ to "ensure the report is reviewed," the organization claimed in a statement. 

Moses African Cemetery, located largely on the Westwood Tower property in Bethesda, was first desecrated in the late 1960s by workers building the apartment tower. The rest of the graves were paved over for a parking lot, and the matter was covered up by Montgomery County officials for decades. A potential sale of the Westwood Tower property, including the graveyard, by owner Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County is stalled in a legal battle that is now moving to the Maryland Supreme Court. BACC has alleged that the HOC violated Maryland law by entering a sale agreement of a burial site without contacting the descendants of those interred there.

Over 200 bone fragments from a construction site directly adjacent to the cemetery have been trucked to a warehouse in Virginia over objections by the BACC, which has asked the private developer and County officials to allow their independent expert to examine them. Neither has agreed to date to allow the review.

"The report provides a detailed overview of the desecration of Moses, detailing the crimes, the criminals, and their accomplices," BACC said in today's statement. "Despite years of advocacy and appeals by BACC and our legal team to end the pillaging of funerary objects, tombstones, and possible human remains, we have seen no action from local officials. As we have documented and shared with the public, it is clear that many of these officials are themselves deeply involved in this hate crime and subsequent cover-up. They have been named in the report.

"BACC will continue to demand the return of all funerary objects, possible human remains (for independent testing by Dr. Michael Blakey), and ultimately the return of Moses Cemetery to the descendant community for proper stewardship. The county and the developers it has provided permits to (which they have failed to comply with) should not be responsible for our ancestors, whom they have dug up and disrespected time and time again."

A series of rallies outside the U.S. Department of Justice are being planned by BACC. The organization is hopeful that the report they have filed will result in a long-sought federal investigation into the known crimes and alleged crimes that have taken place at the historic Black cemetery over the last six decades. Maryland's Supreme Court is expected to take up the BACC's case against the HOC in January.

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