0

Gravesite protesters march on board

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners has been asked to reverse a decision allowing the owner of a landfill to relocate a historic gravesite.

Stephens, MDS landfill has been given approval to move the graves, but about two dozen protesters paraded around the county's administration building Tuesday singing, chanting and carrying signs, one reading "Choose: slave graves or more trash?"

Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia NAACP, called for an investigation to determine if Stephens, MDS moved some of the graves prior to board approval.

"There has already been a letter sent to Attorney General Thurbert Baker calling for an investigation," said DuBose. "We believe they already started the process of moving and destroying those graves. We're asking you [the board] to stick with your vote, but before you move anything, why don't you go and see what is there."

Betty Bowden, 72, the great-granddaughter of Steve Dixon, the man who once held the original deed to the church, chastised members of the board.

"The church is gone and over half the cemetery is gone," said Bowden. "Yes it hurts, when someone runs you off of something that is yours. God has not ever sent out anybody who has not stood up for what is right, and if you don't do what is right, you can't be a child of God."

Representatives from Stephens, MDS did not speak at Tuesday night's meeting.

The board appointed Alex Cohilas, chief of staff, to hear the concerns of the protesters. He said he would work with them answer their concerns.

"The concerns we heard were serious and heartfelt and have been expressed eloquently," he said. "I am going to make an effort to speak with them. I think all the facts need to be gathered. Collecting the facts will lead to the truth."

The board also voted Tuesday to simplify its meeting schedule by eliminating work sessions on the second Tuesday of each month and assigning its zoning meeting to the empty time slot.

Commissioner Wole Ralph, who called for the resolution, said the new schedule would increase participation by cutting down confusion.

"The zoning meetings were taking place 10 days after the second Monday of the month," he said. "This way, they know that the board meets on the first, second, and third Tuesday of the month. This will go a long way toward cutting down confusion."