A lone man holding a large Confederate flag was hauled away in handcuffs Wednesday near Hollywood City Hall after he charged — flag first — at demonstrators urging commissioners to rename three local streets, including one honoring a founder of the Ku Klux Klan.
Moments earlier, the man, whom police identified as 22-year-old Christopher Rey Monzon of Hialeah, had engaged in a screaming match against some of the protesters.
“The white man made this country!” he said. “You’re lucky to be here. Florida is my home, and I will defend it.”
At first, he had stood silently by, giving media interviews as protesters holding ”Take Them Down” signs quietly stared at him. A scrum of police officers awaited nearby, ready to defuse any tension.
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“These socialists are destroying our history,” he told the Herald, saying the fact that he was the only white nationalist present gave him “stronger resolve.” He gave his name as “Chris Cedeno” and said he was from Hialeah Gardens.
Then, after the shouts, the man broke yellow police tape as he lunged at protesters, said one of them, Cindy Thompson. Police took him down and ripped the flag from his hands. He was later charged with disorderly conduct, aggravated assault and inciting a riot.
“It’s pretty sad we live in a world where this still happens,” Thompson said.
About 150 people had begun gathering under the noontime sun to protest Forrest, Hood and Lee streets, which run through the predominantly black Hollywood neighborhood of Liberia.
Sometime after 4 p.m., commissioners are scheduled to vote on renaming the streets, christened in the 1920s after Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate Army; Gen. John Bell Hood, a commander in the Battle of Gettysburg, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate lieutenant general said to be the Klan’s first grand wizard.
“Lee, Forrest and Hood don’t belong in Hollywood!” protesters chanted.
“Hey hey, ho ho, these racist streets have got to go!” they continued.
At one point, state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, led a chorus of “We Shall Overcome.”
In June, at another City Hall protest that drew white nationalists and ended with five arrests, Jones, who is African-American, said he was called a “monkey” and a “nigger.” In July, commissioners — who had hemmed and hawed for years on what to do about the streets — voted to begin the renaming process.
Then came the deadly events of Charlottesville, Virginia, where a major rally organized by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klan sympathizers resulted in violent clashes and the death of one counter-protester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer. “Heather Sent Me,” read one sign Wednesday in Hollywood.
Jones, who said he was optimistic commissioners would sign off on the renaming proposal, told a Herald reporter in an interview Tuesday that the events in Virginia were inevitably on people’s minds.
“They can’t make a decision without thinking about Charlottesville,” he said. “They’re going to have to consider what has happened, to see the great divide that has happened within our country.”
On Wednesday, Jones was joined other politicians were also present, including state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, state Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, and former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay.
In the crowd was a smiling Barry Sacharow, a longtime Hollywood resident who started pushing to rename Forrest Street 15 years ago.
“We’re showing what sort of a community we are: We’re a multicultural community,” he said. “It makes me proud.”
Protesters, including a group from Black Lives Matter, said they didn’t understand why Hollywood didn’t rename the streets years ago.
“It’s an outrage that we are still here, in 2017, trying to convince people that this needs to be rectified,” said Tameka Hobbs, an assistant professor at Florida Memorial University.
“There is no sugarcoating of what the Confederacy stood for,” she told the crowd.
Mitch Ceasar, the former Broward County Democratic Party chairman, looked on.
“We need to look at history through a lens of 2017 and not 1917,” he said. “Unfortunately, government moves very slowly in almost every context. That’s something all groups can agree on.”