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San Diego Strips Civil Rights Leader’s Name From Street

November 4, 1987

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Voters approved a measure stripping Martin Luther King Jr.‘s name off a city street, despite officials’ worry that the city would be branded as racist.

Meanwhile, police warned storeowners along the 6 1/2 -mile street to remove campaign signs supporting the proposition from their windows, police Lt. Connie van Putten said.

She called the action preventative, but wouldn’t say if threats had been received. There were no reports of violence early today.

According to final unofficial results from Tuesday’s election, 107,292 voters, or 60 percent, favored restoring the name Market Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Way. About 71,621 voted against Proposition F.

The election returns disappointed community groups and city officials, who feared the city’s reputation and tourism coffers would suffer.

″I don’t think it’s an insult to Dr. King. It’s an insult to America,″ said Leon Williams, the only black supervisor in San Diego County. ″The values he stood for are American values rooted in aspirations the world over.″

The action reverses the City Council’s April 1986 decision to rename the street after the slain civil rights leader.

County and city officials said they planned to meet this week to begin discussions about a replacement memorial to King.

Petitions to get the King measure before voters were circulated by a group of merchants on the thoroughfare who protested the need to change stationary and storefronts.

They insisted their efforts were financially, not racially, motivated. They said they’d lose Mexican consumers lured across the border to shops there by the translation of the Market Street name.

Mayor Maureen O’Connor, who opposed the measure, said constituents told her they voted for it because they believed the City Council erred by not seeking enough public input before changing the street’s name.

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