HOLLYWOOD (CBSMiami) – Activists rallied in front of Hollywood City Hall before entering on Wednesday to urge commissioners to change the names of several streets because their current names are “symbols of hate.”
Members of Take Down Slavery Symbols Hollywood, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) want the city to rename Lee, Hood and Forrest Streets.
They claim three streets named in honor of Confederate Generals and KKK members are taxpayer-funded symbols of white supremacy that are overdue for removal.
“A lot of these communities are historically black communities. We think it’s just really unfair that these street signs are running through our communities because of the racist history,” said Asa Shaw, who is with Black Lives Matter.
John Bell Hood, Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest all fought for the Confederacy and to preserve slavery. Forrest was also the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. The street named after him runs through a predominantly black neighborhood.
“Trying to not go backwards in history, go forward, take the racism out with the street names that have been posted for years and years and a lot of the oppression in the black community,” said Isaiah Payne, another Black Lives Matter member.
Dozens of people spoke about the issue at a city commission meeting. Before the public comment portion of the meeting, five people were arrested for disrupting the meeting.
Supporters of changing the names say Hollywood originally had different names planned for those streets.
“Those streets were named differently. They were named for cities that had large populations of African Americans and we are asking to reclaim that history, to get the original names back and refuse to honor the KKK and the Confederacy,” said Carlos Balnera.
“No city, state or government entity should be okay with symbols, names, or statues that represented a very divided time in our history. I call on the Hollywood City Commission to do the right thing, #StandWithThePeople, and change the names,” said state Rep. Shevrin Jones.
They added the signs espouse hate and intolerance and that these men were not heroes.
“They were out to destroy the government of the United States and they were out to establish slavery in perpetuity,” said Benjamin Israel.
“We’re not asking you to forget history,” said another person who spoke against the street signs. “We’re asking you to remember it. We’re asking you to remember the one million that died in the confederate secession and the war it led to.”
Those who want to keep the signs cite history and personal tradition.
“Removal of monuments and statutes… is an insult and disrespectful of American veterans,” said Richard Campbell.
“I don’t have hate in my heart,” said Lori Milligan. “My family owns a home on Lee Street. My grandmother passed away in that home. The thought of changing the name of a home that I grew up in and that my grandmother died in, hurts my soul.”
Linda Schainberg said those signs represent generals who are part of our history.
“You can’t erase the Confederacy, the Civil War. You can’t erase it, it happened, OK. It’s like saying we’re going to erase the Vietnam War. It’s the same thing. You can’t erase history,” she said.
“I’m here to preserve American history. I’m tired of this (expletive), man, to tell you the truth. My kids ain’t gonna have no history to grow up to,” said John, who didn’t give a last name.
Several City Commissioners discussed their feelings afterwards. Vice Mayor Traci Callari was in tears.
“I’m sorry but this is very challenging,” she admitted. “Change is hard at first, it’s messy in the middle but it’s gorgeous at the end.”
Commissioner Richard Blattner made his feelings known.
“I’m voting for the change and the sooner the better,” Blattner said.
Some residents are concerned about the cost of changing their address on all of their licenses and insurance information, if the signs are removed.
A resident submitted an application on Wednesday to change the street names. There’s a thought that the city could have the streets have two names for a year or two to help residents transition to the new names and make the necessary changes.
The outcry nationwide to remove Confederate symbols began in June 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina after Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist shot and killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. The following month, the state removed the Confederate flag from its capitol.
Since then battles over symbols of the Confederacy have sprung up across the country.
In Virginia and Georgia, the Confederate flag was removed from specialty license plates.
Recently, New Orleans removed states of Confederate military leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard from public landmarks.
Here in Florida, Orlando removed a Confederate statue known as “Johnny Reb” on Tuesday from Lake Eola Park. It had been in the park for 100 years.
In Hillsborough County, commissioners are considering the removal of a Confederate monument that stands outside the old county courthouse.
Last year, state leaders agreed that the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith should not represent Florida at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The statue, however, is still there because they haven’t decided which Floridian to honor instead.