DENVER (CBS4) – Some people are questioning the idea of naming a new West Denver library branch after the late Hispanic leader Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales.
Gonzales, who died eight years ago, is remembered for his community work but also for his connection to violence.
More than 100 people packed the cafeteria at Denver’s Cheltenham Elementary School on Tuesday as a library commision heard suggestions from the public on what the new $12.5 million library at Colfax and Irving should be named.
Commission members listened as Gonzales’ name was nominated along with other public figures from Denver’s past and other national figures, including current Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Gonzales was a key figure in the Mexican-American civil rights movement in Denver during the 1960s and 1970s.
“This library is a game changer for West Denver, just as folks in the civil rights movements like Corky Gonzales were game changers in their era,” said Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez.
Controversy sometimes surrounded Gonzales. In 1973 his followers were tied to a deadly shootout in Denver. Two years later two of his “Crusaders” — as they were known — were arrested in an alleged plot to bomb a Denver police substation.
Juan Haro, one of the men who was arrested in that incident, told CBS4 on Tuesday he thinks it would be “a disaster” to name the library after Gonzales.
“Corky was responsible for a lot of the evil and a lot of … intimidation,” he said. “It might be like the case with (former Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat) Sullivan, that policeman in Englewood, that at first they put his name on a wall and later had to take it out because they found out about his past.”
Dr. Ramon Del Castillo is one of several people who showed support for the idea at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Naming the library after him would be a significant victory for the cause of social justice. When you look throughout history what you’re going to see is a lot of people who were controversy who were great, great leaders,” he said.
Another meeting on the naming of the library is scheduled to take place on Wednesday night. A commission will make their final decision on the naming of the library on June 20.