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Citizens Still Protest After County Council Votes Against Soccer Stadium

Mary Wells | 4/14/2009, 12:09 a.m.

A day after the Prince George€s County Council voted 8-0 to oppose legislation that would allow a feasibility study of whether to build a 24,000 seat soccer stadium in the county, two dozen or more protesters picketed the county administration building in Upper Marlboro, asking for the ouster of council leaders whom they felt disrespected them at previous council meetings by not letting some of them voice their opinion against the stadium.

Two weeks earlier, Council Chair Marilynn Bland (D-Dist. 9) of Clinton, refused to call a vote on the soccer stadium and recessed the meeting, although there were a dozen or more citizens who had signed up to voice their opposition to the stadium. Councilman Sam Dean (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville followed Bland out of the meeting. The remaining councilmen and citizens appeared uncertain as to what to do next.

€We will call for the resignation of Bland and Dean because of their disrespect of the citizens of the county who had come to the meeting to sign up and speak to oppose the stadium at the meeting. €Bland disrespected the desires of the people and Dean spoke harshly to a citizen in the parking lot afterwards,€ said Jerry Mathis, President of Prince George€s Business and Community Coalition.

Two weeks after that meeting, protestors held a march, waved signs and shouted slogans including €Hit the Road, Jack, and Don€t You Come Back No More, No More€; €We€re Fired Up and Fed Up€; €Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote;€ €Impeach Bland, Dean, Griffith and Muse€ and €Not Again in 2010, People Power.€

Despite efforts to reach Bland, Dean and other council members for a response to the protestors€ actions, Karen Campbell, Director of County Council Office of Communications, through which appointments are set with council members, said they were not available, but the members believed that citizens have a right to protest. Campbell released a copy of a letter drafted by the County Council to the senate leaders in Annapolis explaining council€s vote against further legislation for a feasibility study on behalf of the stadium.

Jim Keary, Director of County Administration Communications, and spokesman for Prince George€s County Executive, Jack Johnson, said that Johnson felt that citizens have a right to protest, but feels that €the soccer stadium would have provided income to the county through sales of tickets that would come at a good time to help improve the financial climate of the County, plus provide recreation for its citizens.€

€His record in the county shows that we have the highest bond rating of €Triple A€ at any time in the history of the county, the building of new stores such as Costco, Safeway and Target in Brandywine, and Giant in Capitol Heights and other developments such as Wegman€s in Woodmore and many other accomplishments point to.

We have the lowest crime rate in 20 years, although we have gained 200,000 more people during that time. Johnson feels that his accomplishments in the county speak for the record,€ Keary said.

People for Change President Sandra Pruitt, said her organization was formed in 2006 to let the politicians know €we will hold them more accountable to the will of the people and do what their constituents elected them to do.€ At a victory party a week before, Pruitt said, €We couldn€t have had success with this defeat by ourselves. We partnered with two other organizations in the county to fight this soccer bill and we are not through yet. Next election, the politicians will be seeing more of us.€

Other citizens, including Ruth Wright and Jacques Chevalier, attended the victory party held at Wright€s estate, and were among the protest marchers.

€We are going to bring about a change in the county and these politicians will have to start doing what their constituents elected them to do. So often after they get elected, they forget what they promised to do and set off to do what they want to do, without the best wishes of their people,€ Mathias said. €We€re sending a message to Griffith and Muse in Annapolis to be accountable to the people.€