After a five and a half hour-long public comment and discussion, the city of Hollywood decided to rename streets that bear the names of Confederate icons.
The new street designations are still to be decided, but what is clear is that they will not be named after Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, John B. Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also an early and influential member of the KKK, as they are now.
In a 5-1 vote, shortly after Commissioner Peter Hernandez stormed out of the commission chambers, the city decided to move forward with the renaming. Concerns remain that there are other streets named after Confederate generals and this will be a recurring issue.
Efforts to change the names date back to the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until local activists Linda Anderson and Laurie Schecter applied through the city’s formal renaming process and paid the $2,000 application fee for each street, that the commission indicated they would seriously consider the issue.
The city estimates it will cost anywhere from $27,600 to $29,200 to rename the different roads.
Residents will need to change banks, credit card, cell phone providers, doctors, stationary, promotional business material in light of the changes.
The vote came after a mostly peaceful demonstration, where people held signs that said “Lets create a new heritage of love” and “Preserve dignity not hate.” The calm protest was upset when a local white supremacists charged demonstrators wielding his half-Confederate, half-Southern Nationalist flag like a javelin. He was quickly tackled by law enforcement before he was able to enter the crowd.
The demonstration dissipated well before the commission meeting, many choosing to take their three minutes to voice their opinion about the street names in front of the commission.
There were more than 130 people looking to speak at the meeting as of 6:00p.m., when the agenda item was picked up, two hours after the discussion was scheduled to start. The session ran well into the night, with the remaining commissioner voting around 11:30 p.m.
A bevy of politicians threw their support behind the move to change the names, from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and State Senator Shevrin and State Representative Joe Geller to State Senator Lauren Book and State Senator Richard Starke.
Before of the issue discussion began, the petitioners, Linda Anderson and Laurie Schecter, conceded that the new names they offered up—Macon, Savannah and Louisville, historic names for the streets—were not particularly well-received. The new names were not important, they said, simply the decision to change the name.
That opened the door for suggestions, those ranged from individuals who were killed for registering black voters to names of first responders who died in the line of duty, to rededicating the street names instead of renaming for people with the same names, like Harper Lee, Bruce Lee or Spike Lee.
The commission will meet some time next week to choose the new names. One of the names supported by the commission is that of Frankie Shivers, a police officer who was killed in the line of duty.
— Wilson Sayre (@WilsonSayre) August 31, 2017
“No parent should have to explain to their child that the street they live on is named after someone who fought for the “right” to keep people enslaved,” said Wasserman Schultz at the meeting.
“Replacing these street names won’t come close to addressing the issues of systemic racism and intolerance that still plague our society,” said Wasserman Schultz, “but it is a vital and necessary step in the fight against these repulsive prejudices.”
Kim Ford, a member of New Jerusalem First Baptist Church, which straddles Forrest Street, says she and other members of her church have been working on the renaming efforts for at least four years.
“We’re asking the community at large to understand why we take offense… having to live on streets where you are always confronted something that you know offends you," said Ford.
— Wilson Sayre (@WilsonSayre) August 30, 2017
“We know this is important and as a city, we want our leadership to say to the residents and to the community, we need to right this wrong,” said Ford.
She says concerns that they were looking to erase history are unfounded, but she did take issue with the celebration of figures like Lee and Forrest by placing their names on signs and monuments.
“We know that there’s going to be some inconveniences. We know that there are going to be some people who don’t agree,” said Ford. “We ask people to make the adjustment. And believe me, as people as color we have made a whole lot of adjustments that can never be understood, but we’re not asking for people to understand the magnitude of that, we’re asking them to look at this specific issue.”
“They’re like a comfortable old shoe,” said Cynthia Baker who sported a t-shirt with ‘Save Our Streets” emblazoned on the front. A half dozen others made the same fashion choice.
Sylvia Koutsodontis says the name change will be an inconvenience for her and was concerned that she was denied the chance to vote on the matter as a resident of Lee Street.
“I even have a dog that I found on Lee street and he’s named Lee and his birthday was yesterday, so don’t do this to my dog or me or everybody else in here,” said Koutsodontis to chuckles from the crowd.
“The idea that some people are being inconvenienced is just ridiculous,” said Benjamin Israel who has been working to change the names at least since 2002.
“This is not a racial matter,” said Israel, “what it is, is a moral matter.”
He also criticized the idea that keeping Lee, for another person with the last name Lee was nonsensical.
“Do we want our city to honor white supremacy or not?,” said Laurie Schecter, one of the official petitioners for the name change. “This moment is about finally facing the fact that we are not a nation of white supremacists.”
The commission discuss changing all street names to street numbers and imposing a moratorium on future renaming, but made no official moves on either of those.