Seven in 10 Kansas City voters recently favored changing the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. back to its original name, The Paseo. U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver likely was not one of them.
Cleaver was sharply critical of supporters of the name change during an appearance last Sunday on “PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton” on MSNBC. Cleaver was particularly upset that some “Save the Paseo” members staged a silent protest during a rally at Paseo Baptist Church the Sunday before last week’s election.
Cleaver, the first black mayor of Kansas City, said even the Ku Klux Klan didn’t enter churches at rallies during the civil rights movement. Besides indicating the decision to change MLK Blvd. back to The Paseo might have been racially motivated, Cleaver also said the wording on the ballot was confusing.
The Kansas City Star reported that Tim Smith, a black man who organized the “Save the Paseo” protest, criticized Cleaver for using racially divisive rhetoric. He said his group, which has white and black members, avoided racial arguments during the campaign. The group added they didn’t like how the city council changed the name of the historic street without letting the people decide.
The group collected enough signatures to put the name change issue on the ballot, giving voters the opportunity to choose between the two names for the street after the Kansas City Council decided to change it in late January.
“Save The Paseo” and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which led the effort to get the name change in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., have met multiple times to discuss their differences. Under former Mayor Sly James, the SCLC renewed efforts to have a street named in the civil rights leader’s honor in April 2018, because Kansas City was the only major metropolitan area in the U.S. without a street named for King.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice