St. Bernard Council rejects proposal to rename street for Martin Luther King Jr. _lowres

In this Dec. 10, 1964, file photo, through the smoke and fire from hundreds of torches, U.S. civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arrives with his wife Coretta to deliver the traditional Nobel address at the University of Oslo Festival Hall. (AP Photo, File)

The St. Bernard Parish Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night against a proposal to rename Colonial Boulevard in Violet for slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The proposal generated intense debate among parish residents.

Opponents of the measure said Colonial Boulevard’s name had a lot of tradition and memories associated with it among longtime residents.

Some supporters of the measure argued that opponents were upset because King spent his life advocating for African Americans to have the same civil rights as white people.

The president of St. Bernard Parish’s NAACP chapter, the Rev. Kevin Gabriel, told reporters that his organization had collected signatures from 28 of the 34 households on Colonial Boulevard supporting the name change.

The parish Planning Commission had recommended approval.

But Councilman George Cavignac called the petition “underwhelming” and questioned whether some of the signatures actually belonged to residents of the street.

He said some of the same signatures also appeared on a petition opposing the name change, creating doubt about whether the number of signatures was a true measuring stick of popular opinion on the issue.

“For a change of that magnitude, I wasn’t in agreement with it,” Cavignac said Wednesday. “That was (going to be) a heck of an expense for 28 signatures.”

The proposal was discussed for about an hour Tuesday after a lengthy debate two weeks earlier. On the first occasion, the council deferred action, saying it was up to the state to decide on the name. State officials said that was not true.

Colonial Boulevard connects East St. Bernard Highway to East Judge Perez Drive.

Although the black population in St. Bernard has grown significantly since Hurricane Katrina, the parish is still predominantly white, and all seven council members are white.

Cities in Louisiana that have streets named for King include New Orleans, Houma and Plaquemine in Iberville Parish.