NAACP members speak in support of naming Ft. Monroe Bridge after MLK

Posted at 11:18 AM, Mar 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-18 18:41:47-04

Hampton, Va. - Most bridges bring people together, but one bridge in Hampton is tearing a community apart.

On Friday, members of the Hampton Branch NAACP, the Peninsula Pastor's Council and Minister's Coalition for Hampton & Vicinity held a press conference in support of naming the bridge that connects Hampton to Ft. Monroe the "Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge".

“Our sole purpose is that we are a city of peace, and we want to make sure that our city council is supported by what their votes are," said Gaylene Kanoyton, the president of the Hampton Branch NAACP.

In February, Hampton City Council unanimously approved to name the bridge after Dr. King.

"This bridge has been unnamed since 1989," Kanoyton told NewsChannel 3 Friday afternoon. "Dr. Martin Luther King was a bridge builder and what better way to honor him and our city, than by naming our bridge Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge.”

The new name has not sat well with some residents. A petition to halt the naming process has already garnered of 1,000 signatures.

“We just figured there was so much rich history in this area, and Ft. Monroe that there were a lot of alternatives that would bring history to the area," said Randy Holtman, a Hampton resident who signed the petition.

The petitioners say council could have selected a more suitable name for the bridge, one that honors someone with ties to Hampton or has a connection to Ft. Monroe.

Holtman was clear their crusade against the bridge's new name was not founded on race-relation issues.

“A lot of the [alternative] names and ideas that [we] have come up [with], are of African American names," said Holtman.

Petitioners against the new name also say council did little to include residents in the selection process.

"They are upset with the way it happened, and the way it went through without people knowing," said Holtman. “The petition is basically for the ballot to stop it and have a vote for the citizens to be involved in the naming of the bridge.”