Protesters in Hollywood: ‘Racist streets have got to go’
Leaders hear from dozens of residents, but not all want a change
HOLLYWOOD – “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, these racist streets have got to go!”
That message, chanted by dozens of protesters Wednesday outside Hollywood City Hall, urged city commissioners to end a long-running controversy over three streets that honor Confederate war leaders.
On Wednesday, commissioners were expected to approve a plan to rename streets named for Confederate commanders Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. But as of 11 p.m., they were still debating the controversial issue after hearing from dozens of speakers, including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and State Rep. Joe Geller.
“There is no shortage of hatred in the world,” Wasserman Schultz said. “We cannot let hatred win here today. Confederate generals should be stud-
ied in textbooks and museums. But they should not be honored on our streets.”
Geller reminded commissioners of Forrest’s status as founder of the KKK.
“Living on a street named after him is like being asked to live on Hitler Street,” Geller said. “This is a problem. You have the power to fix it. Please fix it.”
Longtime Hollywood resident Dara Hill also wants the signs taken down, saying it is an embarrassment that they still stand.
“This should have been done two decades ago,” Hill told commissioners. “This is a civic matter and the country is watching.”
But some who live on the streets want the names left alone.
Lorraine May told commissioners she’s lived on Lee Street for 50 years and didn’t realize it was named for Robert E. Lee.
“Street names don’t breed hate,” she said. “Haters breed hate.”
One woman suggested keeping the name Lee Street and dedicating the street to Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Hollywood resident Benjamin Israel, an AfricanAmerican and Orthodox Jew who has led the charge to rename the streets, ridiculed the idea.
“The idea of keeping Lee Street is nonsensical,” he said. “Name it Harper Street, not Lee.”
In anticipation of the vote, protesters peacefully gathered outside City Hall with signs and posters, chants and speeches.
More than 100 police officers kept close watch on the crowd, some perched on the roof and others standing ready on the ground.
Nationally, the debate over Confederate symbols intensified after violent protests Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va., over a decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. An Ohio man plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters in Virginia, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 people.
In Hollywood, the crowd swelled in a matter of minutes from 40 to more than 150. Among those demonstrating: A girl holding a sign saying, “No Amerikkka.”
A lone protester wanted the street names to stay. Christopher Rey Monzon, 22, of Hialeah, stood alone waving a Confederate flag.
“Nathan Bedford Forrest, Hood and Lee were all good Christian men who fought for the South and the Southern nation,” he told the Sun Sentinel. “We need to defend our heritage and identity in the South — and our history.”
Later, he clashed with other protesters, saying: “White man made this country. You are lucky to be here.”
At one point Monzon tried to jump the security barricade to get to a protester on the other side. Police wrestled him to the ground, put him in handcuffs and led him away from the crowd.
Monzon was arrested on charges of aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and inciting a riot, police said.
A similar protest in June ended in five arrests when Black Lives Matter protesters disrupted a commission meeting while the rally went on outside.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, was among those demonstrating Wednesday, holding a sign that read, “No place for hate — Hollywood.”
“This is a beautiful day, not just for Hollywood but America,” Jones said. “Everyone is here in unity, letting people know this is not the place for hate and this is not the place for bigotry.”
On July 3, commissioners gave tentative approval to changing the street names. The vote was 5-2.
Initial plans to rename Forrest Street to Savannah Street, Hood Street to Macon and Lee to Louisville may be in flux. Blattner told the Sun Sentinel the streets may be named for trees or flowers instead.
Whatever names they go with, Commissioner Kevin Biederman predicted renaming the streets was inevitable.
“If it doesn’t get changed tonight, it’s going to get changed next month or next year,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going away. Let’s move ahead and put this behind us.”
Protesters gather at Hollywood City Hall as commissioners were due to vote on renaming three streets that are named for Confederate war leaders. For the latest on the commission’s action, visit SunSentinel.com.
The public hearing at Hollywood City Hall drew more than 150 people. More than 100 city police officers kept security tight. There was only one arrest, outside City Hall.