Efforts underway in large Texas cities to remove Confederate monuments


Highlights

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

Jury gives life sentence to man suspected of numerous attacks on women
Jury gives life sentence to man suspected of numerous attacks on women

A man accused of a series of attacks against women in North Austin was sentenced to life in prison on Friday. Nicodemo Coria-Gonzalez, 27, was convicted of aggravated sexual assault this week in connection to an attack on a 56-year-old woman along an isolated dirt path in April 2016. DNA evidence linked Coria-Gonzalez to the crime. After the conviction...
3D-printed gun creator Cody Wilson arrested in Taiwan
3D-printed gun creator Cody Wilson arrested in Taiwan

Two days after authorities filed sexual assault charges against Cody Wilson, the Austin man at the center of the national debate over 3D-printed guns, Taiwanese law enforcement officials took him into custody in that country’s capital with plans to return him to the United States. Wilson was arrested in the Wanhua District of Taipei, Taiwanese...
Cold front could bring heavy rain to Austin area Saturday, Sunday
Cold front could bring heavy rain to Austin area Saturday, Sunday

A cold front moving into the Austin area Saturday morning will likely bring thunderstorms to the region, making for a wet kick-off at the Longhorns’ home football game this afternoon. But it won’t actually be very cold, National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Platt said. Temperatures should still reach the mid-80s all weekend, with...
Texas agency dumps proposal to raise retired teachers’ health premiums
Texas agency dumps proposal to raise retired teachers’ health premiums

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas officially decided Friday to ditch a proposal to raise health insurance premiums for retired teachers under age 65. The system’s board over the summer had considered raising premiums for about 68,000 retirees and their dependents by $50 a month in 2019. But amid pressure from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, board...
Paxton’s office warns AISD in flap over church’s gay-marriage beliefs
Paxton’s office warns AISD in flap over church’s gay-marriage beliefs

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office on Friday warned Austin school district officials against blocking a Christian church that opposes gay marriage from using district facilities, saying such action would violate state law and the First Amendment. Celebration Church of Georgetown has been holding services most Sundays since Aug. 26 at...
More Stories