Mar 31, 2022 - News

Drop racist’s name from street, Des Moines petitioners say

A photo of George Flagg.
George Flagg. Photo courtesy of the city of Des Moines

Civil rights advocates posted an online petition Wednesday calling for the city of Des Moines to rename George Flagg Parkway.

Why it matters: Public memorials are intended to honor the work, moral character and ideals admired by society.

  • The petition argues that Flagg's racist legacy caused systemic harm.

Catch up fast: Flagg was a 22-year city councilperson. The petition is related to his voting against liquor license permits of applicants who had “ethnic-sounding names” and his opposition to a city ordinance that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation.

  • The road, formerly Valley Drive, was renamed as a surprise by his peers on the council when he retired from office in 2002.
  • Flagg's sons reached out to city leaders earlier this month following calls to rename the parkway. They asked the council to consider their father's full record before acting.

Of note: No members of the city's current City Council were in office when the street was renamed.

What's next: Petition organizers will soon ask the City Council to restore the name Valley Drive, Des Moines Peoples' Town Hall organizer Denver Foote tells Axios.

  • A longer-term goal is to rename the road in honor of some of the people Flagg discriminated against, Foote says.
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