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Activist Delivers Petition Calling for Park Name Changes to City Council

Posted: Updated: Mar 05, 2018 10:28 PM
Charlottesville activist Mary Carey Charlottesville activist Mary Carey
Emancipation Park Emancipation Park
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Charlottesville City Councilors are getting closer to changing the names of Emancipation and Justice parks.

The public is weighing in on those name changes tonight as well as what to do with the permit process to keep rallies like the one on August 12 from happening again.

In June of 2017, councilors voted to rename Lee Park to Emancipation Park, despite that name never showing up on an official list of recommendations. On Tuesday, February 20, councilors and the public will weigh in on a petition that collected over 500 signatures to again rename this park.

For some, the name "Emancipation Park" leaves a bad taste in their mouth.

"I cringe every time I still say it, even like today if you say it on the news it just go all through me,” says Mary Carey, a Charlottesville resident who created the petition.

Carey started a petition to rename the park back in October.

“All of this came out to a document name, and then it’s a black history type document name,” says Carey. “That's something that people of color and African-Americans hold dear.”

A few of the name suggestions in the petition include “Festival Park,” “Market Street Park,” and “Central Park.” Carey says she wants council to let the public decide on the park’s potential new name.

“They do not want a person’s name like Vanessa Park, Victoria Park, Mary’s Park,” says Carey. “They don't want that; something that they can relate to for a change."

Vice Mayor Heather Hill says she was at the council meeting when the new name of Emancipation Park was chosen back before she was elected.

“I'll be honest, I was personally surprised because those were not necessarily the names that we could see that were on lists that were coming from our stakeholder groups or from the community and I think it’s really important - we are looking for new names,” says Hill. “It’s really important that we are responsive.”

In addition to changing the park names, changing the permit process for special events is also on council’s agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. Hill says Charlottesville needs to be ready for whatever may happen in the future.

“Really kind of trying to strike that balance - protecting our community, while also allowing people to have their First Amendment rights,” says Hill.

In December, city hall denied Unite the Right rally organizer Jason Kessler’s request to have an anniversary rally in August.

“No, don't give them nothing,” says Carey. "Charlottesville city government, city manager, whoever, should tell them, ‘hey, look, this ain't worth the papers right now,’ if they say ‘I'm gonna sue y’all’ - bring it.”

Both of these topics are set to go in front of City Council on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Hill says she does not expect an official decision on changing the names of the parks, but she says hopefully they can narrow it down to only a handful of options.

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