Commissioners of a Florida city have initiated a process to change the names of three local streets named after Confederate leaders and a founder of the Ku Klux Klan. The change has sparked fierce debate in the community, serving as a microcosm of the national discussion over honoring figures from the Confederacy.
On July 3, city commissioners held a meeting to decide the fate of three streets spanning across Hollywood, Florida. The controversial streets in question were named after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and John Bell Hood, as well as Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the KKK.
The meeting followed a tense protest before the Hollywood City Hall on June 22. The event, attended by 100 people, became increasingly heated and prompted the arrests of five protesters.
By a vote of five to two, Hollywood City Commissioners decided to waive holding the fate of three street names to a public vote and to strike a compromise of phasing in new names over the course of two years. A final vote to finalize the decision was slated for Aug. 30.
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Forrest Street is now scheduled to be renamed Savannah Street. Hood Street will be renamed Macon Street, and Lee Street will be changed to Louisville Street.
Hollywood resident Cynthia Baker urged the commissioners not to rename the three streets.
"If we pass this, where will it end?" Baker said, according to the Sun Sentinel. "We have streets named for slave-owning presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Madison. Activists have said those streets are next."
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Hollywood resident David Rosenthal was against the name change merely out of practical concerns.
"I'm against changing the names not because I'm into Southern heritage, but because I don't want to pay to have my driver's license and documents changed," Rosenthal said, noting he lived on Forrest Street. "It's just a bother."
Public defender Howard Finkelstein noted that both Forrest and Hood ran through predominantly black neighborhoods.
"It is not right that an African-American mother has to tell her child she lives on a street named after someone that wanted them in chains or dead," Finkelstein said during the meeting.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel submitted a letter asserting that honoring "Confederate figures who led the fight to uphold the evil institution of slavery cuts against the very values we treasure today and stands at odds against who we are... Failing to remove these names from the city's streets, which run primarily through diverse communities, sends the dispiriting message that racism, hate and bigotry are sadly still tolerated."
Following the vote, Black Lives Matter activist Esther Pereira expressed cautious optimism that the street names would be changed.
"I'm looking forward to celebrating on Aug. 30 when we finally vote on the names officially being changed," Pereira told the Miami Herald.
Commissioners Traci Callari and Peter Hernandez, the two dissenting votes on the panel, said they would propose countermeasures. Callari called for a new rule prohibiting the changing of any more street names for up to 10 years while Hernandez suggested that the city change all of its street names.
"If you inconvenience one, you should inconvenience them all," Hernandez said.