A late afternoon restraining order temporarily blocked the City of Dallas from removing a bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Wednesday.
Plaintiffs Hiram Patterson and the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit in Dallas federal court while city council members voted 13-1 to immediately remove the historical statuary located in Lee Park. U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater granted the temporary restraining order (TRO) that halted the statue’s removal while in progress.
Only hours earlier, Dallas residents packed City Hall. More than 50 individuals signed up to voice their feelings before council members voted on a resolution that called for taking down the Lee’s likeness immediately.
Last week, three of the four black council members demanded the instantaneous removal, disposal, and/or relocation of Confederate monuments located on city land, Breitbart Texas reported. They presented this resolution which also called for renaming city parks and streets tied to the city’s Civil War South history.
“There is no question in my mind that this city will be better tomorrow with this statue down,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings, who previously dubbed Confederate sculptures as “monuments of propaganda” and “dangerous totems.”
Less than a month ago, Rawlings announced the formation of a 20-person appointed task force who would advise city officials on whether or not to remove Confederate iconography in response to the recent Charlottesville, Virginia, protest violence. He charged them with meeting for 90 days to find solutions. The appointees met for the first time on August 31.
Within days of creating the task force, Rawlings sped up the clock for a vote on statue removal by November 8. Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway then led the resolution effort. It bumped up the time frame to Wednesday’s vote. Reportedly, while the council met, city workers already set up barricades around the Lee Park sculpture. Dallas police appeared on site, and a large crane was poised to pry the statue from the pedestal upon which it stood since 1936 when dedicated by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.
“Dallasites have only had a week to consider this resolution,” said a speaker during public comments, urging the city council to “slow down” and fix Dallas streets instead of knocking down the city’s history.
Frustrated task force member Jo Trizila voiced concerns during council member discussion “about the speed in which we are working.” She said the resolution gives appointees “33 days” and not the 90-days allowed by city charter. “I ask of you today to allow the task force to do what you asked of us to see this process through.”
The resolution altered the role of the task force, seeking suggestions on costs, and where to store or relocate downed monuments.
“I’d like to give the task force time to do its work as the original charge that was made by the mayor which was to take a lot of public input to make a recommendation to us on whether to remove the statues or not and if we decide they should be removed, how you pay for that, and what should be done with them,” said Councilwoman Sandy Greyson, the lone vote opposing Lee’s ouster.
However, Councilman Philip Kingston, a leading advocate to remove Confederate monuments, said, “We do not need a task force to tell us right from wrong.”
Apparently, the city did not need the public much either. Councilman Rick Callahan asked his peers to defer the vote until November 15. He made a motion “to allow the people to decide the outcome” by placing a referendum on the city’s next ballot in May 2018. It failed 4-11. Callahan abstained on the resolution vote.
Lee’s great-great grandson attended the meeting and offered to purchase the statue from the city. Dallas resident Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Allen West, the former Florida congressman, also spoke. “We don’t need to focus on statues. We need to focus on where we are going as a nation.” West said he served on Fort Bragg and Fort Hood, both named for Confederate generals. “But any soldier you ask who walks on those bases, it’s not about the person it’s named for, it’s about the country that they serve.”
As social commentary, one man quoted George Orwell: “The most effective way to destroy a people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
Others spoke to remove Confederate monuments. Among them, one man asserted that warehousing statues is not “erasing” history. He asserted keeping the statues romanticized history. Another speaker said he wanted the future not to be “bound by the delusion of white supremacy.” Racial-healing Pastor Michael Waters likened extracting Confederate statues to “removing this legacy of white supremacy from our city.” Leftist Reverend Jeff Hood said: “Racism is not right for God is not white.” He advised, “Take these damn things out tonight.”
NBC DFW later polled viewers, asking if they thought the City of Dallas should remove the statue of Lee. Seventy-seven percent of respondents voted “no” and only 23 percent said “yes.”
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas set a hearing for the TRO on Thursday, September 7, at 1:30 p.m. local time.
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