Voters in Kansas City to decide whether to rename Martin Luther King Blvd

Voters in Kansas City to decide whether to rename Martin Luther King Blvd
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Voters in Kansas City, Mo., will decide on Tuesday whether to rename Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard almost a year after the city council voted to change the street's name to honor the civil rights leader.

Several Kansas City residents have rallied to restore the street's historic name, The Paseo, and collected 2,857 signatures in April to put the measure before voters, The Associated Press reported.

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If the bid by the group, called Save the Paseo, is successful, Kansas City would be one of the largest U.S. cities to not have a street dedicated to the civil rights leader, according to the news service.

Supporters of the street's current name have reportedly called members of Save the Paseo racist, saying the group is mainly white and does not live on the street and warning that a name change could adversely affect the city business and tourism.

Save the Paseo, meanwhile, has argued the city council did not follow appropriate procedures when voting on the name change and didn’t contact most residents who live on the street, according to AP.

Kellie Jones, a member of the group, told The Hill that she was one of the original signatories of the petition. She said she signed it because of the historical significance of the Paseo and because the city council did not communicate appropriately with the community when deciding which street to rename.

"The way it was done was especially troubling," she said.

Supporters of keeping King's name on street signs held a rally on Sunday at a church where opponents silently protested by standing along the aisles and ignoring calls for them to sit down, the AP reported.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said the protesters were welcome at Sunday’s rally, but encouraged them to consider the impacts of removing King’s name.

“I am standing here simply begging you to sit down,” Cleaver reportedly told the group. “This is not appropriate in a church of Jesus Christ.”

The city council decided in January to rename the street to honor King after a campaign led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other black leaders to push for the name, according to the news wire.

The current city council members took office in August, a city spokesperson told The Hill. Half of the council members who participated in the January vote are no longer in office.

The Hill has reached out to Cleaver for comment.

Updated at 4:16 p.m.