UPDATE: City escorts out civil rights leader

Thomas Lynn | The Valdosta Daily TimesPolice escorted civil rights activist Floyd Rose out of a city council meeting at Valdosta City Hall Thursday evening.

VALDOSTA — Civil rights activist Floyd Rose was escorted out of a city council meeting at Valdosta City Hall Thursday evening.

Rose came to the meeting to once again ask the city to change the name of Forrest Street to Barack Obama Boulevard.

After a contentious back and forth with Mayor John Gayle during the council meeting, Rose exceeded the three minutes of time given to each person to speak during the public commenting portion of city meetings. 

The mayor asked Rose to yield the floor, but when he ignored the request, police escorted the 80-year-old man out of the council chambers. He left peacefully and will not face any charges, Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan said.

Rose spoke to the council about a petition the People's Tribunal, a local activist group, submitted to the council last year to rename Forrest Street. The civil rights group says the road was named after Ku Klux Klan founder and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest.

"I just want to know what you all are going to do," Rose said. "If you're going to vote on it, just vote on it. Tell us something, don't just leave us hanging like this."

Gayle responded that the city has a process to change street names inside the city. He said the tribunal needs to follow that process before the council can vote on whether to change the name or not.

Rose said they followed the procedure, but the city changed the rules at the last minute.

In February, the city council approved an ordinance to change the process for renaming city streets. City officials said the old ordinance left too much up to interpretation and needed to be changed for clarity.

One of the key parts that was changed was the number of signatures that could come from a single parcel on the city map.

The tribunal submitted its petition with multiple signatures from a single parcel, an apartment complex. The change laid out that only one signature could come from one parcel. With this change, the tribunal would have to get the needed number of signatures and resubmit their petition to have the street renamed, city leaders said. 

Forrest Street is a large road and would require about 170 signatures, which the tribunal failed to meet the first time.

The mayor told Rose the city didn't change any rules.

"I'm one of these that's fair to everybody," Gayle said. "We didn't change any rules — I assure you of that."

Rose strongly disagreed and continued to speak until his three minutes were up, and the buzzer sounded in the chamber. 

Gayle said he would have to have him removed from the chamber.

"Have me removed," Rose said. "Take me to jail. That's fine with me."

Police then entered the room and walked him out. Rose was not available for comment after the meeting.

Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256

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