Among residents who would like to see the street’s name changed is Carlos Valnera, a member of the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward, who is helping to organize Saturday's demonstration.
He's disappointed city leaders have not renamed the street despite Forrest’s unnerving history, which is filled with sinister acts. “There shouldn’t be room for paying tributes to slavery, racism, and its symbols in our communities,” Valnera says. “We should know and understand our history but honor those who fought against [racism], not those who perpetrated it.”
Forrest was a slave trader and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. During the Civil War, witnesses say he ordered the mass slaughter of hundreds of black men at Fort Pillow simply because they were in Union uniform.
Many historians say this was a clear war crime because the soldiers had surrendered.
He commanded his men to shoot, drown, lynch, crucify, and burn the fighting “Negroes.” The horrors of what took place traumatized some of his soldiers, especially those who tried to stop the slaughter.
Today his legacy continues to haunt. People who live on Forrest Street, particularly minorities, have told New Times they feel oppressed living under the Devil’s shadow. They hope city commissioners arrange a meeting soon to rename the street, which they view as a hateful symbol.
“We see these symbols... as assaults [from] institutions perpetuating oppression. Reclaiming these [is] a complicated part of remembering and upholding the legacy of struggles for freedom," Valnera says. "It’s imperative to mount collective and creative efforts against them if we truly want to move toward better communities."
The demonstration will be held at the Outdoors Hollywood Beach Theater from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Valnera says protestors will be able to "vent" their frustrations with Forrest Street at the event by throwing shoes at a board bearing the general's image. "This is a cathartic public health service," he argues.
The Halloween-time protest is not just being held on account of Forrest’s frightening reputation, but coincidentally it marks the 139th anniversary of his death: He died October 29, 1877.