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Arrest Police Officers Who Brutally Attacked Reuben Pegues

Above photo: Protesters march across the city after leaving the Fourth District police station following a vigil for Karon Hylton-Brown on Thursday night. Tyrone Turner / DCist / WAMU.

Bethesda MD —  The brutal arrest of high school student Reuben Pegues, a member of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition (BACC), Saturday night during Washington DC demonstrations exposes the continuing disregard for Black Lives at all levels of our society, and the importance of the struggle to preserve the memory of African Americans in the face of obliteration by development at the Moses African Cemetery on River Road  in Bethesda.

Reuben is an ardent supporter of the BACC’s multi-year battle to stop the plans by Bethesda Storage to excavate what Coalition members call “ancient Moses” – the section of the cemetery used during slavery as a mass grave for enslaved kidnapped Africans and later the center of a thriving post-emancipated Black community.  This portion of the cemetery was desecrated this summer under a permit by Montgomery County with oversight by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich.  The Coalition fought to preserve the historically important memory and artifacts of slavery, the Civil War, post-emancipation, Reconstruction and Jim Crow period of African/African-American history.  Despite State-sponsored oppression, the Black community grew and thrived there until its citizens were violently displaced by white supremacist, developers and Montgomery County beginning in the mid 20th century.

BACC’s goal is to create a memorial and a museum on the site. It is now more urgent than ever to save the rest of Moses Cemetery from the same forces that destroyed ancient Moses.

“Reuben’s arrest is evidence that Black Lives still do not matter. They did not matter when slaves’ bodies were dumped in common graves at what was then a plantation. They did not matter when white developers forced black people out of their homes and off their property for commercial development and parts of the cemetery was paved over for a parking lot. They did not matter when the Planning Board gave Bethesda Storage a permit to dig up the remainder of the burial ground for its project,” said Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, leader of BACC.

We saw further evidence that Black Lives do not Matter with Reuben’s arrest Saturday night, Coleman-Adebayo said.

Video documenting the arrest show police officers shoving demonstrators demanding justice for Karon Hylton. As the scuffle escalates with police using their batons and shields to slam demonstrators, the video show four officers chasing Reuben and slamming him against a heavy pole fence.

“Our motto is “Black Lives Matter in Life and in Death,” Coleman-Adebayo said. “Black people were worked to death, raped, murdered with impunity during slavery. Now they are gunned down by police with impunity in the 21st Century. And, when Black men and women stand up to demand that all Black Lives Matter and an end to police brutality, as Reuben did —  they are beaten, hounded, slammed to the ground and arrested,” she said.

Our mission must be two-fold, Coleman Adebayo said. “We must fight to preserve the memory of what Black people have done and what we have contributed to this county; and we must fight to ensure that this country live up to its promise – that all people are created equal and that in that promise, Black Lives Matter.”

We support Reuben Pegues. Reuben was released from jail Monday, November 2  at 6pm without charges. “DC police placed Reuben’s life at risk, first by brutally attacking him and secondly, by jailing him for 2 nights in a Covid-infested jail cell. The police who arrested Reuben must be held accountable, charged, arrested and condemned for this atrocious act” said Coleman-Adebayo.

Black Lives Matter in Life and Death!

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