By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A coalition of community organizations are calling for Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles to be renamed for a civil rights figure and pastor, James Lewis.

(credit: CBS)

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The outdoor plaza, a rather small public park adjacent to the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, has been the site of a number of large political events and rallies in recent years. The park is also a Metro line station and hosts an outdoor ice skating rink every year during the holidays.

Pershing Square was originally dedicated by Mayor Cristobal Aguilar in 1866, and named for General John J. Pershing in 1918.

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The park’s namesake is a problematic historical figure, according to the Rename Pershing Square coalition. The group calls Pershing a “white supremacist general” who never had a connection to Los Angeles and led genocidal campaigns against ethnic communities who are part of the fabric of the city – including Native Americans, Mexicans, Filipinos, Koreans, and Muslims.

Pershing’s forces massacred hundreds of people in the effort to crush the Mexican Revolution and led the mission to hunt down and kill Pancho Villa.

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The group is calling on the Los Angeles City Council to rename the park for Lewis, who they say spent 25 years as a LA community, labor, and religious leader.