A city commission voted Wednesday to officially call for the renaming of Lincoln Park.

Guided by the city’s Framework for Reconciliation, which the City Council adopted in June 2020 as a way of beginning to eliminate racism in Long Beach, the Equity and Human Relations Commission supported renaming Lincoln Park and removing both the Lincoln statue and the 13-foot penny sculpture from the park, according to a draft one-page letter released Tuesday.

Any new name for the park should “be discussed in consultation with the Native Americans of the land on which we live, the Tongva people,” according to the letter.

The commission approved the sending of a letter to Mayor Robert Garcia and the City Council Wednesday, June 1, but made a few additions to the draft text.

Commissioners largely agreed with the draft letter, but voted to add additional historical context on President Abraham Lincoln, as well as a clearer articulation of their proposed recommendations to the city, among other changes.

The letter was written by Commissioner Zoe Nicholson and Vice Chair Amy Eriksen, according to commission Chair Alyssa Gutierrez.

The commission has been discussing the possibility of changing the name of the park since April, when it hosted a presentation from Change the Name Coalition members.

During that presentation, coalition member Stephanie Mushrush explained their reasoning by highlighting three key acts of genocide that were either ordered by President Lincoln or perpetrated by military officials during Lincoln’s administration:

  • The hanging of 38 Dakota men in December 1862, reportedly the largest mass execution in U.S. history;
  • The “Long Walk,” in which 8,000 Navajo people were forcibly marched 450 miles in 1863, resulting in more than 2,200 deaths;
  • The 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, in which American soldiers killed “around 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people composed mostly of women, children, and the elderly,” according to the National Park Service.

The commission’s draft letter includes references to all three historical incidents.

“With the expanding understanding of our history, the City of Long Beach has this opportunity to demonstrate respect for the Tongva People,” states the letter.

George Funmaker, a Dakota Tribe member and activist with the Change the Name Coalition who previously spoke before the commision, said he thought the draft letter was “pretty good.” He added that in his consultations with Tongva members, it was suggested to name the park after Toypurina, a Tongva woman who helped lead an uprising against the Spanish-controlled San Gabriel Mission in 1785.

During public comment at the May meeting, Jamilet Ochoa of Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition supported changing the park’s name by noting that while it was good that the Equity and Human Relations Commission opened its meeting with land acknowledgements, such statements are “meant to have action.”

Commissioner Christopher Covington agreed, and told the rest of the panel that simply opening each month’s meeting with a land acknowledgement “is not enough,” and the commission needed to take some sort of action.

The City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission would still need to approve any name change, Parks Director Brent Dennis told the commission in April.

Lincoln Park, which dates to 1880, is the oldest park in the city, according to the Parks Department. Originally called Pacific Park, the name changed in 1915 with the installation of a statue commemorating Lincoln.

The park closed in 2016 when construction began on a new civic center. It reopened in early February.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated and corrected to include details of the commission’s June 1 vote.

City commission expresses support for renaming Lincoln Park

Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.