City workers in Kansas City are dismantling more than 100 signs along what was briefly known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard after voters overwhelmingly favored returning the street to its original name: The Paseo.
The 10-mile thoroughfare through the city’s predominantly black East Side was renamed for the late civil rights leader in January, when the City Council heeded calls to make the change from the Kansas City chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that King helped found, the Kansas City Star reports.
But a group of citizens formed Save The Paseo to push back because the Council waived a requirement that 75 percent of residents sign off on street name changes, and the group mounted a petition drive to take the issue to voters Tuesday.
“They wanted to do a good thing, but they went about it the wrong way,” Councilwoman Alissia Canady, who voted against the name change, told the news site. “And the voters of Kansas City have decided.”
Preliminary results show nearly 70 percent of voters favored The Paseo, which supporters contend have a special significance in the city’s history. The road was named after Paseo De La Reforma in Mexico City, an inspiration for landscape architect George Kessler during the planning of the city’s original parks and streets system, CBS News reports.
Prior to the Council’s January decision to rename The Paseo after King, Kansas City was known as one of the largest U.S. cities in the country without a street named after the preacher.
The issue has been a hot topic in the community, sparking get-out-the-vote efforts, as well as protests and posturing on both sides.
“I think that only if you are a black child growing up in the inner city lacking the kind of resources, lacking the kinds of images and models for mentoring, modeling, vocation and career, can you actually understand what that name on that sign can mean to a child in this community,” Reverend Vernon Howard, president of the Kansas City chapter of the SCLC, told The Associated Press.
“What people will wonder in their minds and hearts is why and how something so good, uplifting and edifying, how can something like that be taken away?” he said.
The Sunday before the big vote, members of Save the Paseo held a silent protest at a rally at a black church campaigning to keep the King name.
“They walked into the Paseo Baptist Church and stood along its two aisles,” the AP reports. “The protesters stood silently and did not react to several speakers that accused them of being disrespectful in a church but they also refused requests from preachers to sit down.”
Diane Euston, a leader with Save the Paseo, said the vote to reverse the City Council’s renaming was successful because The Paseo “doesn’t just mean something to one community in Kansas City.
“It means something to everyone in Kansas City,” she said. “It holds kind of a special place in so many people’s hearts and memories. It’s not just historical on paper, it’s historical in people’s memory. It’s very important to Kansas City.”