BOWIE – Protesters withstood the wet weather as long as they could to let Wal-Mart know they do not want a store sitting in the middle of their community. “We don’t want a Walmart,” the protesters shouted. “We deserve better!”They set themselves up in the middle of Glenn Dale road in front of the site where Wal-Mart wants […]
BOWIE – Protesters withstood the wet weather as long as they could to let Wal-Mart know they do not want a store sitting in the middle of their community.
“We don’t want a Walmart,” the protesters shouted. “We deserve better!”
They set themselves up in the middle of Glenn Dale road in front of the site where Wal-Mart wants to set their store up. They held signs, handed out fliers and repeated chants to those passing by in cars in an effort to make their message known.
Jennifer Dwyer, a community member who organized the protest, said she thinks the community’s voice is being heard.
“We’re continuing to raise awareness,” Dwyer said. “We want to make the point to our county officials that our community is against it. We want to show the breadth of our opposition.”
Dwyer said the protesters want to make sure that they are heard loud and clear—they do not want a Walmart store.
“I think our message is getting out,” Dwyer said. “And we just want to keep that momentum up. It’s going well, so we’re going to keep pushing forward. Keep doing what works.”
While the protest continued, some employees from the local businesses in the shopping center came out to try and explain why they support Wal-Mart’s desire to move to Bowie.
Montgomery Beard, III, a barber at the Bowie One barber shop, said Wal-Mart would bring more business for the shopping center’s current tenants. The building has been vacant for too long, Beard said, and if it continues to be left empty it could detract potential customers from visiting his shop.
“The shopping center has not had an anchor store since February of 2007,” Beard said. “As an employee of the surrounding businesses I support the Walmart.”
While the residents have valid complaints, such as concerns about increased crime, Beard said, some of their issues already exist even without a Walmart store in the community.
“I think these issues should be levied against the people who should be responsible. The commercial lease agent and the Prince George’s County infrastructure,” Beard said. “Just call 911. They’ll come and take care of the crime. There’s crime in here now.”
The movement to prevent a Walmart store has received increasing support from various officials, including Delegate Carolyn J.B. Howard (D-24), who stood alongside the protesters.
Howard said the citizens had voiced their concerns before, but were being ignored by Wal-Mart in their initial community meetings.
“Why have those meetings with the community and you don’t take into consideration what they’re saying?” Howard said. “That’s why I’m here. This is important to these constituents. They’re not political. They just know how this is going to affect them.”
State Senator Joanne Benson (D-24), said the citizens are doing the right things to prevent Wal-Mart from coming into their community.
“Their presence here today, in the rain, has sent a clear message that they’re adamantly opposed to a Walmart,” Benson said. “People here have inundated my office with phone calls and voicemails voicing their opposition against Walmart. They are concerned because they feel this community deserves better,” Benson said. “They are concerned about traffic, they are concerned about crime and they are concerned about the overall quality of life.”
Benson said the surrounding communities are taking the right steps in order to have their voices heard. “Everybody is fully aware of the sentiment that this community has,” Benson said. “The fact that they’re out here and they have their signs made—that says something.”
Benson said, she believes the community is determined to do whatever it takes to prevent Wal-Mart from opening a store, even if it means taking legal action.
“That’s serious,” Benson said.
Howard said some members of the Prince George’s County Council, who are set to make a decision regarding the community’s appeals later this fall, because of differing agendas.
“I support what the county is doing. These are my friends,” Howard said. “But they are looking at only economic development, not the impact of this economic development on this surrounding community.”