ST. GEORGE, Utah — Washington County residents came out in force on a hot summer morning to tell the St. George city council to hold the line against assaults on a name they embrace.
The name is "Dixie."
It's painted on the rocks above the city of St. George, and it's a part of the identity of dozens of local businesses and other entities, the largest of which is Dixie State University.
With 11,000 students, DSU is the Utah's biggest University south of Provo and it's one of the region's main economic engines.
The University Administration and Board of Trustees will be the first to take up the question of whether the name's confederate origin makes it unacceptable.
Locals attending the protest say the connection between their Dixie and the confederacy are so distant as to be meaningless to them.
"I associate [the name] with hard work and the people who grew up in this area," said Jon Stucki.
The mayor of St. George, Jon Pike, spoke to the crowd.
"In terms of the city of St. George I don't see us changing anything," Pike said.
Pike then called out to each city council member in attendance in the crowd asking each if they thought the city would change the name Dixie on anything under their control. Each in turn agreed.
But Pike also said the city isn't part of the decision on the university's name. That is ultimately up to the state legislature.
Those in favor of a name change have told FOX 13 it repels potential students from other parts of the country.
"I feel like the change will help with more black students coming here," said student Frederick Abraham.
While many say they don't connect "Dixie" to the confederacy, the university itself has played off of the name through its history, including holding mock "slave auctions," showing the Confederate battle flag in some of its imagery, and having a "rebel" mascot until 2009.
Faculty member Geoff Smith told FOX 13 the University has an obligation to address its past.
"All of that stuff has to be addressed regardless of the name change," said Smith.