Thousands sign opposing petitions in row over renaming Blackboy Road in Exeter

A petition row attracting thousands of signatures is being waged into whether a road name in Exeter should change over claims it is ‘racist’.

Separate online petitions have been set up to lobby the city council over Blackboy Road – one is calling for a rename and the other wants the moniker retained.

Around 1,400 signatures call for the road name to stay, and more than 2,000 people support a change.

Exeter City Council said there were procedures to change road names and any petition must be presented at full council for consideration.

Petition starter Tom Feest, who recently moved to the area, wants Blackboy Road renamed, calling it ‘insensitive’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘racist’.

Frankie Rufolo, who set up an opposing petition to retain the name, said changing it for ‘political correctness’ would ‘set a dangerous precedent’.

His said: “Those demanding the council change the name say it comes from a ‘racist nickname’ for King Charles II who may have had a darker complexion, judging by his official portraits and writings from the time.

“Today, we acknowledge the past could be a shockingly racist place and move on in a more equal and liberal society.

“Changing Exeter’s street names for political correctness would be an Orwellian re-writing of history.

“It would set a dangerous precedent. At what point does it stop?

“The statue outside Exeter College is of a man who put people in concentration camps during the Boer War. Could that be removed?”

He added: “There are pragmatic, as well as principled reasons not to change the name as well.

“Our council tax should be spent on practical things such as bin collections and infrastructure, not removing and replacing road signs because someone applies offence.

“Changing the road name could also cause confusion.”

Mr Feest’s petition to remove the name states: “Blackboy Road in Exeter is named after King Charles II.

“Charles had a darker complexion, different height and features from those around him which led to him being known as ‘Black boy’.

“I think the fact this hasn’t been changed already is insensitive and ignorant so having just moved into the area and learned the history behind the name, I want to see it changed.

“It’s 2020 and we still have a road named after a racist nickname given to one of our monarchs.”

An Exeter City Council spokesman said: “Any petition needs to be presented to the council at one of its full council meetings.

“The petition will then be considered in accordance with the council’s petition scheme.”

The Exeter City Council procedure for changing the name of roads can be found here.

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