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Bridge named after conservative South Boston city councilor targeted by activists – Boston Herald


A new controversy over two former conservative Boston city councilors whose names adorn a bridge and a City Hall room could be brewing, exposing decades old divisions and putting current elected leaders in a difficult position.

A former Boston city council staffer and activist is demanding the city “dename” a South Boston bridge and a City Hall hearing room after the late Jimmy Kelly and “Dapper” O’Neil, who he says were hostile toward Blacks and staunchly opposed to busing.

“Wherever we find (racism) we need to cut it out quickly,” said Jamarhl Crawford, the former staffer and community activist said in an interview. “I don’t care about hurting people’s feelings.”

Crawford sent a letter to the Boston City Council and Mayor Michelle Wu’s office proposing the idea to strip Kelly and O’Neil’s names, putting Wu and councilors in a potentially painful place.

That means the controversy could play out on the floor of the council, where former Mayor Ray Flynn’s son Ed holds the gavel.

Crawford’s proposal could open the door to new awkward scrutiny of other heroes of South Boston like the late U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley and Flynn, who were also opposed to busing.

Moakley’s name adorns the federal courthouse and Flynn’s name is on Massport’s Black Falcon Terminal in Southie.

Kelly supporters point out that if his name is stripped from the bridge, others in Southie could be targeted.

“Joe Moakley was against busing, does that mean they will strip the Moakley Courthouse of its name?” former state rep and Southie activist Brian Wallace wrote on Facebook. “Don’t worry, Jimmy, we have your back.”

Kelly died in 2007 and the city named the bridge after him a few months later. He was a fierce defender of Southie and was one of the leading opponents of court ordered busing during the 1970s.

Not all prominent Black leaders are for Crawford’s idea. The Rev. Kevin Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition who is now pushing to rename Fanueil Hall, said changing the name of the Kelly bridge will only be helpful if it leads to “deeper dialogue” about race.

“But if people are motivated to change the name out of racial revenge or out of feelings of recrimination then it is a fruitless effort that will only stir up tensions between the Blacks and Irish in the city. It’s clear that Councilor Kelly wasn’t a racist in ways we see Peter Fanueil as a white supremacist.”

But Crawford said his proposal will expose the “hypocrisy” of the Boston City Council on the issue of racial justice.

“The first thing they can do is deal with actual racism that took place in the Boston City Council,” he said.



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