Mary Carey and the non-partisan group Unity Coalition have started an online and paper petition that calls for the renaming of Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park. According to the group and other members of the Charlottesville community, the new name is only dividing the city further.
In early June, the Charlottesville City Council originally changed the names of Lee and Jackson Parks to Emancipation and Justice, respectively. These parks, which were originally named after Confederate War heroes, were altered on the basis of being symbols of “white supremacy” and “terror,” according to Rick Turner, the former NAACP president of the Albemarle-Charlottesville area.
Community members are demanding that the park be renamed once again. Carey’s petition states that the park needs to be “more acceptable to the community in a way that is more transparent and inclusive.”
Another driving point for Carey’s argument is that City Council never considered the opinions of the Charlottesville community on the park’s original name. Carey also states in the petition that the new park name “shows a lack of care for the people of color.”
Charlottesville resident Emma Ratliffe believes that the park name should not be reverted to Lee Park under any circumstances and had mixed opinions about the petition.
“The city chose the new name very quickly without taking into account what the people had suggested, which is an issue. However, I also understand why the city renamed it without much review because they were under a lot of pressure.”
University of Virginia student Ethan Chase also thinks that the people should have a say in what the park is titled.
“Democratic process [is] very important, and the just way to go about it is to hold a vote,” Chase said. “It is the people’s town and people’s history, so they should have the ultimate decision in deciding how they pass on the local culture.”
Other Charlottesville residents seem to support of the petition as the online portion currently has over 200 signatures.