PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - The fight to preserve historic cemeteries in Prince William County with the graves of freed slaves and Native Americans is picking up steam.
The coalition to save historic thoroughfare is working with the county to protect the land from private developers.
The group has been fighting since November 2020 to save three cemeteries after they say some of them were desecrated and blocked off.
On Tuesday, the Prince William County Board of supervisors approved a $300,000 purchase for land for one of those cemeteries. But the coalition is now worried about the other two cemeteries.
Frank Washington, an organizer for the group, said he received a call on Wednesday from a county official that a nearby brewery, which owns the land where one of the cemeteries is, would start the excavation process; which it did Thursday.
County officials say the brewery isn't excavating for development, but that it’s part of an archeological study to determine where the graves are.
"We were aware that there was a possibility somewhere down the road that that may happen but there was supposed to have been a meeting with the community and public before that took place," Washington said.
He says the county did request the owners of the brewery hold off until there was a public hearing but it was ignored. County officials told FOX 5 they can only make a recommendation since they don’t own the land.
"There is a way to do things that can show respect to the people that have been hurt most by this and simply holding off and giving the public a chance to know what’s going on," Washington said.
Washington told FOX 5 he and other community members feel disrespected especially considering there are freed slaves and Native Americans buried there.
"The majority of people within these graves we’re talking about never had the respect in life," Washington said. "So for me now to see what’s happening for example with the blockage and desecration it’s almost like these people are enslaved again because you have people coming in once again claiming ownership of these bodies."
FOX 5 did reach out to the brewery but did not receive a response yet.
Washington said the group will continue to fight to restore the cemeteries.
He said the ultimate goal is for the entire stretch of land to be turned into a historical park to honor the history of the Thoroughfare community. We did reach out to this brewery but we did not hear back.
Washington says they will continue to fight to restore the cemeteries. He says the ultimate goal is for that entire stretch of land to be turned into a historical park to honor the history of the thoroughfare community.