Efforts underway in large Texas cities to remove Confederate monuments


Texas’ largest cities are weighing their options after a deadly rally over the weekend.

White supremacists organized the Charlottesville, Va., rally to keep in place a Confederate statue.

As Austin officials start an effort to change the name of Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin, similar efforts are underway to remove symbols of the Confederacy in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio in the wake of last weekend’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

But “tearing down” those symbols won’t change the past nor will it help the nation’s future, Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.

In Charlottesville, white supremacists were protesting the city’s decision to remove a statute depicting Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Their presence drew numerous counterprotesters, and clashes ended with one counterprotester dead and dozens more injured. The violence immediately sparked conversations about race, calls for the removal of Confederate iconography across the country and a bipartisan push for civility.

READ: UT’s Fenves: No place for white supremacy in America

In San Antonio, two City Council members requested the removal of a 118-year-old Confederate monument two weeks before the Charlottesville violence. About 500 people demonstrated Saturday for and against the monument’s removal, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Five Dallas City Council members have signed a memo calling for the removal of their city’s public Confederate monuments, and Mayor Mike Rawlings said he wants to form a task force to study the issue, according to The Dallas Morning News.

And in Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner has asked city staffers to recommend what to do, if anything, with Confederate monuments in the city after an online petition called for the removal of a downtown monument called the Spirit of the Confederacy.

“The important thing is that as we move forward, that we recognize history is also what it is,” Turner said Tuesday, according to the Houston Chronicle. “History has its good. History has its bad. But I do think it’s important for us to review our inventory and then to make the most appropriate decision that’s in the best interest of our city and that does not glorify those things that we shouldn’t be glorifying.”

READ: Confederate rally set for Austin on heels of Charlottesville outcry

Throughout the country, though, Confederate monuments have already come down since the Charlottesville clashes.

Baltimore “quickly and quietly” removed four monuments overnight Tuesday, the city’s mayor told a local TV station. In North Carolina, protesters tore down a Confederate monument on Monday, then stomped and kicked the toppled statue. According to a New York Times tally on Wednesday, 11 Confederate monuments across the country have come down, and another 11 removals have been proposed.

As Texas city officials weigh their options, state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, has his eyes on Confederate monuments inside the Texas Capitol and on its grounds.

“The removal of Confederate iconography from the Texas Capitol and its grounds is long overdue. Just forty steps from my office is a plaque that praises the ‘heroic deeds’ of the Confederate Army and states that the underlying cause of the Civil War was not slavery,” Johnson told the American-Statesman. “There is a clear difference between acknowledging historical events and glorifying a distorted version of the past. The Legislature owes it to the people of Texas to remove these false and offensive reinventions of history.”

There are more than 150 Confederate monuments and place names in Texas, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, many in small towns where there is no clamor to change or remove them.

READ: Texas A&M could be on thin ice in cancelling white nationalist rally

In the South Texas city of Victoria, no one has called for removing a 1912 downtown monument called “The Last Stand,” which depicts a Confederate soldier, Victoria Mayor Paul Polasek told the Statesman.

Symbols from the past can provide teachable moments in the present, Polasek said.

“I think it’s an important reminder of a very different chapter in American history,” he said. “We need to not forget so we never repeat that.”

Abbott also expressed caution when asked for his position on Confederate monuments.

“We must remember that our history isn’t perfect. If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it,” he said in a statement to the Statesman. “Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Driver hits, critically injures pedestrian at Stassney, Congress
Driver hits, critically injures pedestrian at Stassney, Congress

A driver hit and critically injured a pedestrian in South Austin on Thursday night, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Medics responded at 10:02 p.m. to Stassney Lane and South Congress Avenue, EMS officials said.  The pedestrian, estimated to be in his 40s, was taken to St. David South Austin Medical Center with life-threatening injuries...
H-E-B recalling olives that may contain glass, store says
H-E-B recalling olives that may contain glass, store says

H-E-B is recalling certain store-brand olives that may contain glass inside, the store said Thursday evening.  The recalled product, 10-ounce glass jars of H-E-B’s “Ode to Olives Sliced Salad Olives,” has a best by date of Nov. 3, 2019, the store said in a news release.  The store issued the recall after customers who had...
Reports: Victim’s family sues parents of accused Santa Fe school shooter
Reports: Victim’s family sues parents of accused Santa Fe school shooter

The family of one of the victims in last week’s Santa Fe High School shooting is suing the parents of the accused shooter, according to two Houston-area TV news stations.  The parents of 17-year-old Chris Stone have filed suit against the parents of accused shooter, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, KTRK-TV reported. They argue in the suit...
Intense, tearful meeting with shooting survivors ends Abbott gun talks
Intense, tearful meeting with shooting survivors ends Abbott gun talks

Gov. Greg Abbott ended three days of gun violence discussions Thursday with an intense, sometimes tearful session devoted to survivors and victims of mass shootings in Texas. Many in the state Capitol room attended Santa Fe High School or had children who were there when a gunman killed eight students and two teachers last week, and while there was...
Democratic governor candidate Valdez owes $12,000 in property taxes
Democratic governor candidate Valdez owes $12,000 in property taxes

Lupe Valdez, who on Tuesday won the Democratic nomination for governor, owes more than $12,000 in property taxes on seven different properties, the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday. Valdez’s campaign spokesman Juan Bautista Dominguez said that the former Dallas County sheriff does owe the money and said she is paying it back. “Sheriff...
More Stories