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Charlottesville renames parks at center of Confederate controversy

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Charlottesville’s leaders have decided their city’s parks aren’t ready for Emancipation and Justice.

Still struggling over how to handle Confederate symbols, the Charlottesville City Council voted 4-1 Monday night to change the names of two parks yet again. The former Lee Park, renamed Emancipation Park, is now Market Street Park. The former Jackson Park, whose name was changed to Justice Park, is now Court Square Park.

The initial name changes in June 2017 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. 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 or easy names, it allows us to not deal with some of the issues we’ve had,” Bellamy said.

“It doesn’t make us have to think critically about what’s going on,” he added. “But if that’s the will of the people, so be it.”

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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