Protesters call for removal of county leaders
Officials chastised for D.C. United effort, delay in council actions
by Daniel Valentine | Staff Writer
Click here for Video of Rally (April 9 Prince George's Protest)
About 20 Prince George's County residents protested outside the county administration building in Upper Marlboro on Wednesday, calling for the removal of several lawmakers as a result of their efforts regarding a proposal to bring a Major League Soccer stadium to the county.
"We must not allow politicians who have turned their backs on us to disrespect us," said Fort Washington resident Jerry Mathis, president of the Prince George's Business and Community Coalition, the group that organized the protest.
Mathis said residents are outraged that lawmakers supported the soccer stadium despite community opposition, and said they were especially disappointed in the actions of Council Chairwoman Marilynn M. Bland (D-Dist. 9) of Clinton and Councilman Samuel H. Dean (D-Dist 6) of Mitchellville, who left a council meeting March 24 without allowing residents to voice their opinions about the stadium.
The protest was held just one day after the Prince George's County Council formally voted to oppose legislation that would allow a study of whether to build a stadium for the D.C. United team in the county. After the council vote, a D.C. United soccer team spokesman said the vote has spurred the team's owners to look elsewhere to build a new stadium.
"We're, of course, disappointed at the outcome of this vote," said Doug Hicks, spokesman for the team. "We will continue conversations with other jurisdictions regarding a future home for D.C. United."
The majority of the council had voted against the legislation two weeks ago, but Bland, who was an early supporter of building a stadium in Landover for D.C. United, said the vote wasn't final and did not put the item on the agenda last week. Several residents had attended the meeting to voice opposition to the stadium, but Bland recessed the meeting 10 minutes after it started, leaving the council chambers along with Dean, without allowing residents a chance to speak before the council.
Residents who opposed the stadium called Wednesday for Bland to be removed from office, along with stadium supporters County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro, who is sponsoring the House legislation. Waving signs, the crowd sang the song "Hit the Road Jack" as they marched in front of the administration building.
Officials for the council and Johnson declined to comment on the protest. Councilman Tony Knotts (D-Dist. 8) of Temple Hills said he supported giving the group a chance to speak.
"In a democracy, everyone has an opportunity to express their concern. It's the American way," Knotts said. "I see no problem with people expressing those concerns. It's their right."
Bland voted along with the other seven council members Tuesday to send a letter to state leaders opposing the stadium. Councilwoman Camille Exum (D-Dist. 7) of Capitol Heights did not attend the meeting.
Though state and local officials say the bill is now not likely to go anywhere before the General Assembly ends its session Monday, Griffith said she would still push for the proposal.
"It is still my hope that the state will allow Prince George's County to study the possibilities of adding a vibrant transit oriented development project including a stadium for the celebrated D.C. United Soccer team, to the state's future," she wrote in a statement.
E-mail Daniel Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org.