Sunday, October 17, 2004

A group of about 30 persons gathered at the homes of two D.C. Council members yesterday to protest a proposal to build a $440 million baseball stadium on the Anacostia Waterfront in Southeast.

Among those in the crowd were residents, community activists and members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Many stabbed the air with clenched fists and vowed to stop the project as they rallied in front of the Fifth Street SE home of council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat.

Others chanted “Kill the Stadium Bill” and hoisted signs that read: “No D.C. Taxes for Baseball.”

Metropolitan Police Department officers stood across from Mrs. Ambrose’s house, monitoring the demonstration.

There were no reports of violence or arrests.

“We know that Sharon Ambrose stood against the poor and black people in the city,” said Imam Akbar, who identified himself as the minister of justice for the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. “Those in Ward 6 know we will recall Sharon Ambrose.”

“The stadium [deal] is a billion-dollar bill or better,” he said, suggesting instead that the city use RFK Stadium for its new Major League Baseball team.

“Get excited about a hospital; get excited about schools,” he said.

Mr. Akbar said the stadium would not bring more good-paying jobs, as supporters say, and pointed to similar experiences in Cleveland and Detroit.

“What do you want? No stadium. Tell me how do you want it? By any means necessary,” the crowd chanted.

The city would issue bonds to pay for the stadium. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, has proposed paying for up to $500 million in bonds with a combination of a 10 percent sales tax on baseball tickets and stadium concessions, an annual $5.5 million rent payment from the team owners and a gross-receipts tax levied on the city’s multimillion-dollar businesses.

Michele Tingling-Clemmons of the D.C. Statehood Green Party also attended the rally. She said her party has for two years been demanding public hearings on the stadium plans.

“This is part of an ongoing scheme to manage government in secret,” she said.

The group later moved across the city to Georgetown and the P Street home of council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat.

Organizers said they chose to protest in front of the homes of Mrs. Ambrose and Mr. Evans because the two are strong supporters of the stadium deal.

The council members were with Mr. Williams and others yesterday in China on a business trip.

The city is in final negotiations to bring the Montreal Expos franchise to the city. Supporters of a new stadium say it will create more jobs and stimulate the economy in Southeast, which has not prospered from recent economic development in the city.

Luke Kuhn, 39, rode his bike to both rallies. The Montgomery County resident said his social life will be destroyed if the baseball stadium is built in the industrial area of Southeast.

“The clubs I frequent are directly threatened by the stadium,” he said. “I told Jack Evans that we will be back in his ward, if those clubs close.”

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