Fairfax residents get emotional at debate on renaming Confederate-linked streets

The Fairfax City Council is considering whether to change more than a dozen street names that have ties to slavery and the Confederacy, and residents became emotional Tuesday night as they spoke out about the proposal at a public hearing.

“We should be embarrassed,” Rahmein Mostafavi said, raising his voice. “Here we are with our non-Black privilege saying, ‘Oh, it’s not racist!”

Mostafavi was among those who argued that some of the Northern Virginia city’s streets should be renamed because they may be insensitive to people of color.

Patricia McMurray had a similar argument: “While I know that changing street names is not going to eliminate systemic racism, it’s one small thing that we can do now to show that racism is not OK.”

Opponents of the changes argued that they would be unnecessary and a hassle for homeowners.

“These name change proposals do nothing whatsoever to help anyone in our society,” Francis Dietz said. “They have the illusion of helping people without us having to do anything constructive and needlessly cost citizens time and money.”

Dorothy Storm said she lived in the area for more than three decades.

“I never looked at the names as memorializing, honoring or promoting the Confederacy,” Storm said.

The list of 14 streets that may be renamed includes Confederate Lane, Plantation Parkway, Lee Highway and Stonewall Avenue. Most of them are centered around the Mosby Woods neighborhood, which is named after Confederate Army battalion commander John Mosby.

Some of the opponents took particular issue with the fact that “Ranger Road” made the list, arguing that it is innocuous and not necessarily associated with the Confederacy. According to city council documents, the Confederate Army battalion that John Mosby led was known as “Mosby’s Rangers.”

Council members said they would take the public comments into consideration and potentially take action on the name changes later this month.

It was not immediately clear what names would be given to the streets if they are renamed.

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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