HOLLYWOOD (CBSMiami) — Dozens stood up to speak Wednesday afternoon in front of city commissioners, ahead of the ongoing debate about uprooting Confederate history on Hollywood street signs.
More than 140 people signed up to speak at a public hearing. The message: take down these street signs and rename them. Protesters stood united in the belief that Hollywood streets named in honor of three Confederate generals need to be changed.
Organizers say it’s long overdue and will remove the glorifying of men who supported slavery and one who was a onetime leader of the KKK.
“Why would we have a street named in honor of the first grand wizard of the modern KKK?” asked Dara Hill, a Hollywood resident.
The group, made up of various organizations including the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward, want Hollywood commissioners to change the names of Lee, Hood and Forrest Street back to their original names of Louisville, Savannah and Macon streets.
During the afternoon rally, Hollywood Police officers stood watch on the roof of City Hall, while dozens more patrolled on the ground. They wanted to prevent violence like the world witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia a few weeks ago.
Only one person stood in support of keeping the street names. A man identified by Hollywood Police as Christopher Monzon engaged supporters of the name changes.
John Marese said he was standing across a barricade from Monzon and at one point, thrust the flagpole he was carrying at the crowd, just as police grabbed him.
“He rushed through and he was coming at me,” Marese said.
Hollywood Police arrested Monzon and charged him with aggravated assault, inciting a riot and disorderly conduct.
His behavior was far different from others who want the street names to remain. Brian Turner is a member of “Save Our Streets” and the “Sons of Confederate Veterans.” He believes changing the names will erase history.
“We are not respecting American history,” said Turner, whose groups stand against white supremacy and white nationalism. “If it hurts your feelings, people want to change it.”
Those who want to see changes say the coalition of races, faiths and creeds that showed up Wednesday proves that the world is a different place from when those street signs first went up.
“We’re here to say that we’re the community of all different colors, of all different races, and different backgrounds, that all together want to see a different future,” said Tiffany Burks.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott and state leaders in Tallahassee asking them to hold a one day special session to work to remove the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith in the US Capitol.
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.