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Activists Rally Behind Street Name Change

By Susy Solis, CBS 11 News
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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM)- The local chapter of the NAACP and dozens of community activists gathered to launch a movement to honor the man who changed the face of the civil rights in America.

The conversation about renaming Division St. after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began months ago but Saturday, the Arlington Chapter of the NAACP formally launched their “End the Division” campaign to garner support for the name change.

About 75 marchers carried signs and chanted “We have a dream! We have a dream!” as they walked along the busy street to their end point at Cowboys Stadium for a press conference.

Arlington is one of the largest metropolitan cities without a street named after the late civil rights leader.

“It’s not a street that is isolated into a community where very few people drive by, it’s something that’s prominent and I think it makes a statement,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the NAACP of Texas.

It is visibility is one of the reasons the NAACP chose Division St. The street is one of Arlington’s main thoroughfares that guides visitors to the city’s entertainment district near the Ballpark in Arlington and Cowboys stadium, and is home to hundreds of businesses.

But not everyone is board with a name change, including Mayor Robert Cluck.

“I don’t think it would be fair for all those businesses to have to change their name and go through the expense of changing the name of the street,” Cluck said.

In order for a street name to be changed, 80% of property owners have to sign a petition saying they agree with a name change.

City Council would then have to approve the name change before it can be implemented.

The NAACP Arlington Chapter has received more than 100 signatures in an online petition but has not yet received support from 80% of the businesses along Division Street.

The cost of changing street signs along the 8 mile road is unknown.

The NAACP Arlington Chapter requested the item to change the name be placed on a council agenda but so far, the mayor has declined to put it on the agenda and other council members have not expressed interest in doing so. The majority of council members would have to agree to put the item on the council agenda.

“Generally putting items on the agenda goes through me but it can be overridden by the council and so if they want to do that, they certainly can,” Cluck said.

Mayor Cluck said he is open to honoring King in a different way or renaming a different street, but Silk Littlejohn-Gamble, president of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP said renaming a less prominent street after Martin Luther King Jr. would be shameful and unacceptable.

Despite the launch the “End the Division,” it seems the NAACP and the city are more divided than ever on the controversial issue.

But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the group says they have no plans to stop back down.

“In a movement, there is always going to be opposition. If you stop at every road block, you’ll never get anywhere,” Littlejohn-Gamble said.

The NAACP is considering going to the state to request memorial signs.

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