Danville City Council hears from residents about renaming Stonewall Rec Center

People on both sides of the issue spoke at Tuesday night's council meeting


DANVILLE, Va. – Some Danville residents are expressing their opposition to renaming Stonewall Recreation Center.

Prior to Tuesday night's council meeting, about a dozen people were outside city hall holding signs that said "Save Our Monuments...Preserve Our History."

During the public comment section of the meeting, the Rev. Avon Keen, a member of the Danville Ministerial Alliance and president of the Virginia SCLC, requested that the name be changed because it refers to Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

The Ministerial Alliance and SCLC members held a press conference two weeks ago to announce their request for the rec center to be renamed.

On Labor Day, the same group gathered outside the rec center to pray for the victims of the violence in Charlottesville; violence sparked by the potential removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Tuesday's council meeting was the first time a member of the group had directly asked city council members for the building to be renamed.

After the Rev. Keen spoke, Bill Soyars Jr., one of the people out in front of city hall prior to the meeting, spoke.

"(Stonewall Jackson's) name is worthy to stay where it is. It's been there for 102 years," Soyars emphasized. "If we are to remain a free and a civil city and nation, there must be a great awakening and respect for God and all people."

When Soyars finished speaking, about a dozen people erupted in cheers and applause.

Mayor John Gilstrap asked people to refrain from such outbursts.

Council members did not respond to the Rev. Keen or Soyars.

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