Hollywood City Officials Agree To Change Confederate Streets, But Delay Replacements

Aug 31, 2017

Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) is one of a handful of state lawmakers pushing to change confederate commemorations like street names in Hollywood, FL.
Credit Meredith Geddings via Florida House Website

The Hollywood city commission has approved a plan to rename three streets named after confederate generals.  It’s part of a broader effort reassessing the state’s relationship with its history.

Next year, Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) wants the Florida Legislature to drop three holidays: Confederate Memorial Day and the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.

“I think that what having a holiday is or having monuments is to glorify what something is or was or to honor or pay homage to it,” Book says.  “And I don’t think that that is something that is appropriate.”

After a showdown in Charlottesville turned violent as white supremacists clashed with opponents, lawmakers and ordinary people have been forced to reconsider monuments to the confederacy.  Holidays, statues, plaques, school names—those recognitions take many forms. 

And in Hollywood, Florida it’s three streets.

“For about 20 years now the issue has been prevalent within [the] Hollywood community,” Rep. Shevrin Jones explains, “with three street names that are named after confederate generals.”

Jones is a Democrat from nearby West Park, and those streets are named after Robert E Lee, John Bell Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest. 

Doug Guetzloe with Save Southern Heritage says there are 67 confederate monuments in the state and nearly every one of them is at some stage of being removed or altered.  He says his group is having to fight those who want to remove the commemorations and some of those who would maintain them.

“They really have their own agenda—which is quite frankly violence,” Guetzloe says. 

“I mean they—some of these groups, and the David Dukes, and the pro-Nazis and the KKK—they’re interested in promoting their own interests,” Guetzloe says, “which really ironically have nothing to do with preservation.”

Guetzloe contends his defense of confederate monuments is purely a matter of historical preservation. 

But critics point out slavery is inextricable from the confederacy, and they argue racial subjugation is so tightly wound up in its legacy that it’s impossible to place confederate figures on a pedestal without also countenancing that government’s racism and oppression. 

It doesn’t hurt those arguments that many monuments went up long after the Civil War under Jim Crow regimes or in response to the Civil Rights movement.

“How many speaker cards to we have on this item?  Currently there’s 132 right here and there are probably more coming from downstairs.”

Wednesday night Hollywood’s seven member city commission took up the matter of those streets in front of an overflow crowd.  More than 130 people signed up to speak.

The commission needs a supermajority—five votes—to move forward with renaming them. 

Carmella Gardner and many others spoke in favor of changing the street names. 

“Our country is hurting,” she told commissioners as she held back sobs, “and it’s because issues like these have been denied for so long.  And it’s time to address them.”

But there were others pushing back—often criticizing an earlier move by the commission putting the decision in its hands rather than mailing ballots to residents.

“You don’t know how we would have voted,” George Gonyea told them.  “You thought you knew how we were going to vote, but because you took that away from us I do not respect this commission.  And I think to earn that respect back, you need to do the right thing here.”

Five hours later, the question went back to the commissioners.  But they spent more than hour bickering over procedure—Commissioner Peter Hernandez even walked out in protest.

“We’re violating our protocol, we’re violating our process,” he complained.

The remaining members put the issue to a vote and five agreed to change the names.  But no one seems satisfied with the original slate of replacements—Louisville, Macon and Savannah.  So the commission is planning yet another meeting, this time to come up with a shortlist.