Denver neighborhood with ties to KKK recommends name change

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A tablet offers the recent history of the Stapleton neighborhood at the intersection of 29th Avenue and Roslyn Street, Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in northeast Denver. Amid nationwide racial unrest, residents will vote on whether to continue to be named after Benjamin Stapleton, a five-term mayor of Denver who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — A Denver neighborhood voted Wednesday to recommend changing its name after a yearslong debate over its association with a former mayor with ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

The 11 elected neighborhood delegates of the Stapleton Master Community Association voted unanimously in favor of the change and to work with the registered neighborhood association to come up with a new name.

The neighborhood was named for Benjamin F. Stapleton and built beginning in 2001 on the site of the former Stapleton International Airport. Stapleton was Denver’s mayor for 20 years between 1923 and 1947 and was a member of the KKK.

More than 65% of voting property owners opted to retain the Stapleton name in a referendum last summer. But the death of George Floyd and the ensuing unrest renewed the debate.

“A lot of people have woken up to the social injustice and the endemic racism that permeates through the society,” said Keven Burnett, executive director of the community association. “Things have changed in a major way.”

Floyd, a black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. His death prompted protests across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.

Christie Spilsted, a delegate on the Stapleton neighborhood’s community association, said she initially was against changing the name because it would cost too much and the community had decided against it.

“I had a change of heart. … By not acting more decisively on this, I was holding up the process of racial equality,” she said at Wednesday’s virtual meeting.

The community association’s recommendation will be followed by a vote by a community board of directors. The community’s master developer and the City and County of Denver also need to approve a name change before it can take effect.

Former gubernatorial candidate and state treasurer Walker Stapleton, the great-grandson of the former mayor, tweeted Sunday that he was disappointed the democratic process represented by previous resident votes was being overlooked.

But Stapleton said he supported the name change if it “brings more equity, fairness and opportunity” for Denver residents and Colorado residents of color.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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