Phoenix City Council votes to approve Squaw Peak Drive, Robert E. Lee Street renaming

The Phoenix City Council voted on Sept. 16 to rename two streets that are considered by some to be offensive and derogatory.

Street names considered offensive to Native Americans, Black Americans

In June, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted about starting the process to change the street names. Both Mayor Gallego and Councilwoman Thelda Williams initiated the process on June 18. In July, the city council unanimously voted to begin the process to change the names, and in a nine-to-zero vote on Sept. 16, the Council approved the renaming of Squaw Peak Drive and Robert E. Lee Street.

The word "squaw" is a demeaning word for a Native American woman, and other alternatives to the street are Peak Drive and Piestewa Peak Drive.

Robert E. Lee was a confederate general "who represents historical institutions of racism and slavery." Instead of glorifying the general and confederacy, other names that were suggested are Freedom Street or Justice Street.

"I feel nothing but anger when I see emblems romanticizing a time my recent ancestors were treated worse than horses," said one person who voiced an opinion during the city council meeting.

Residents react to change

Some residents are left furious with the change.

"I'm mad as hell this whole thing was pushed into the throats of the residents," said Rick Klawitter.

Klawitter says he is not opposed to the reason behind a new name, but the changes he will have to make.

"There are so many places that addresses exist, that our addresses are part of our records. Online shopping, banking, all the city services, but it doesn't matter. They don't care about that," said Klawitter.

Councilman Carlos Garcia says the name changes will be tough for some, but he hopes everyone "shows the same grace as we continue to push policy changes for black lives.

Possible new names for the now-former Squaw Peak Drive and Robert E. Lee Street are Piestewa Peak Drive and Freedom Street or Justice Street, respectively.

Robert E. Lee and Squaw Peak Drive Renaming Process

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