Rename Pershing Square is a coalition of Los Angeles community organizations and individuals calling on City Council to rename Pershing Square—named after a white supremacist general with no ties to Los Angeles, responsible for genocidal campaigns against communities dear to Los Angeles (Filipino, Native American, Muslim, Korean and Mexican). We seek to rename the park “Lawson Square,” after civil rights legend Reverend James Lawson, who spent 25 years as a community, labor and religious leader in Los Angeles.
General John Pershing has no real historical significance to the City of Los Angeles. He was an American general known for waging genocidal campaigns against the very communities that create the treasured, diverse fabric of LA.
General Pershing’s brutality was referenced by Donald Trump to justify his own anti-Muslim policies. Pershing was a colonial governor of the Muslim Moro region in the vicious American war of conquest, charged with “pacifying” Moro peoples. Pershing commanded the final “battle” in 1913, where he directed his troops to massacre 500 men, women and children who had taken refuge in an old volcano crater.
In addition to genocide against Filipino and Muslim peoples, Pershing led extermination campaigns against the Apache and Sioux tribes in the late 1800s, including against Native hero Geronimo. He was similarly in charge of the “Mexican Punitive Expedition” to help crush the Mexican Revolution and kill Pancho Villa. In 1905 he went to Tokyo to help Imperial Japan viciously rule Korea as a slave colony.
Out of respect for Muslim, Native, Filipino, Mexican, and Korean peoples—and all those who oppose racism and genocide—this senseless honoring of Pershing in the heart of our city must change.
WHO IS REVEREND LAWSON?
Reverend James Lawson is a civil rights icon who is very dear to the city of Los Angeles. He was most recently seen widely across the United States, for his powerful speech at the funeral for John Lewis.
Rev. Lawson was one of the central leaders of the civil rights movement; a core strategist of the history-changing Freedom Rides & desegregation sit-ins; led the campaign to remove “whites only” signs in Nashville; and a close collaborator with MLK. Lawson was chairman of the strike committee for the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike which MLK went to support and was assassinated after his famous “Mountaintop” speech. Lawson, a champion of peace and non-violence, spent 14 months in prison for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War.
In 1974 he settled in Los Angeles as pastor of the progressive Holman United Methodist Church, where he has led for 25 years. Lawson offered his church as a hub of social justice organizing for LA activists. He also spent many years as Chairman of the cherished Los Angeles labor organization, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE). In 2010, he created the Civil Discourse and Social Change Initiative at California State University Northridge's (CSUN).
Also a longtime champion of the rights of women, immigrant and LGBTQ communities, Rev. Lawson’s entire life has been dedicated to the values of equality and justice we want our city to embody. He is a powerhouse of history, a giant of the civil rights movement, and a symbol of unity; someone LA can be proud to have honored in the heart of our city.
Coalition MEMBERS Black Lives Matter Los Angeles • Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) • Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) • American Indian Movement SoCal • Kabataang maka-Bayan • Interfaith Communities United for Justice & Peace (ICUJP) • Veterans for Peace • Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition • Church Without Walls • About Face: Veterans Against The War • MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles • Creating Justice LA • Union of Musicians and Allied Workers • Al Awda • ANSWER Coalition • and more...