The Paris City Council will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building. There’s only one item on the agenda but it could generate the longest City Council meeting in some time.
The lone agenda item appears as “discuss street name.” The street named to be discussed is East Klan Street.
In the aftermath of violence in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, which took place during a protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and a counter protest that left one counter protester dead, the Rev. Heath Bradley of Bella Vista, a native of Paris, suggested renaming the street in a letter to the editor of the Paris Express. Local legend suggests that the street was named for the Ku Klux Klan, which, according to legend, met in a house or building on the street.
“The only reason this is a story is because of all the national attention over removal of Confederate monuments,” Paris Mayor Daniel Rogers said last week. “If not for that, I don’t think it would be a story or a reason for concern. But, I thought it needed to be discussed.”
Rogers said, based on research he’s done, there is no concrete evidence the Ku Klux Klan ever met on that street. He also said he can’t find any evidence that the street was named something else and later changed to Klan Street. He added that he’s also been told that Klan is a common surname, family name, that can be found chiefly in Scotland and Germany. Paris was settled in large part by immigrants from Germany and Switzerland.
“It’s possible the street was named for a family,” Rogers said. “However, I can also see where it could be named for the Klan.”
Rogers said he’s found evidence of Ku Klux Klan activity in the area in the 1920s, when the Klan was at its height of popularity nationwide.
Rogers also recognizes there could be two sides to the discussion.
“If we change it, one side can say we’re caving into national pressure,” he said. “They suggest that Paris shouldn’t cave into pressure. If you change it, what next? On the other side, if it’s not changed, some could say Paris is a city with hate in it’s heart. That puts Paris in a tough spot.”
Rogers went on to say, “Paris doesn’t have hate groups.”
Rogers said that since the matter was brought up, he’s talked to people who live on the street.
“They say leave it alone or they say they’ve had awkward moments when they have to give their address,” Rogers said. “I’ve had more than one person tell me that. To me, that’s the most legitimate reason to change the name.”
Rogers also said he thinks the controversy has been blown out of proportion.
“The attitude on social media has been silly,” Rogers said. “We’ve got a lot of good things going on in Paris and we’re spending time on a street name. It’s not a monument. It’s a street name.”
In any event, whatever happens after Tuesday’s discussion will be up to the City Council, Rogers said.