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Charlottesville votes to rename parks yet again

(WHSV)
Published: Jul. 17, 2018 at 12:16 PM EDT
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Just over a year after Charlottesville renamed parks named for Confederate generals to Emancipation and Justice, city council has voted to rename the parks again.

Still struggling over how to handle Confederate symbols, the Charlottesville City Council voted 4-1 Monday night to change the names of Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park) and Justice Park (formerly Jackson Park).

Councilors voted to rename Emancipation Park as Market Street Park and Justice Park as Court Square Park, which were the top choices from the people who voted in the city's second park renaming survey.

The

followed recommendations from a commission that studied the city's Confederate imagery.

This, and plans to remove the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, led to rallies featuring torch-bearing white nationalists and deadly violence on Aug. 12. The Lee statue still stands, as does that of Gen. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson.

Councilor Kathy Galvin says some community members felt the idealistic names were ill-fitting for parks still dominated by Confederate monuments. A two-month survey then showed overwhelming support for the latest names.

Councilor Wes Bellamy, the lone dissenter, said the new names' neutrality obfuscates deeper issues still fomenting racial strife.

"When we choose neutral names or just easy names, it allows us to not truly deal with the issues that we've had," said Bellamy. "We have seen that there's been a reluctance from a wide variety of people and we like to choose what's easy [...] But if that's the will of the people, so be it."

In response, Councilor Kathy Galvin said there's a reason why the community is pushing to change the park names and councilors should consider this.

"Perhaps, over time there's no reason why the names can't change again when people feel the parks really warranted, but right now those statues are a big issue in those parks," said Galvin. "We can't add the context to them yet because we can't begin the park design process until the courts set free our ability to even add context. So I think the will of the public, there is some wisdom to it."

The city doesn't have an estimate for how much renaming the parks will cost.

Last December, city council allocated $500,000 to assist with funding recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on race, memorials and public spaces.

Last week, Jason Kessler, who organized last year's "Unite the Right" rally, became the final defendant to sign a consent decree agreeing to "actively discourage" coordinated, armed activity in the city. Kessler is now preparing instead to hold an anniversary rally in front of the White House.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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