Controversy surrounds Confederate monument removal
The San Antonio City Council voted 10-1 on Thursday, Aug. 31, approving the removal of Confederate monument, erected in 1899 in Travis Park.
Councilmembers William “Cruz” Shaw and Roberto Trevino were the co-sponsors of the controversial measure, which called for the removal of the downtown monument and complementing cannons from Travis Park. The measure was met with an outcry of public commentary and protests by supporters from both sides of the debate.
Councilman Clayton Perry of District 10 dissented, opposing the measure on administrative grounds and citing failure of the council to bring the issue before the community in meetings and council sessions prior to the Thursday vote.
Work to relocate the statue began late the evening of Aug. 30 as barriers were erected around the monument, and increased police presence in the area ordered to curtail potential violence.
The growing movement of removing confederate monuments is a largely divisive subject, lauded by some as social progress and others as an erasure of history.
Students interviewed at Texas A&M University-San Antonio said they are divided on the subject.
“These historical facts need to be taught, but they don’t need to be glorified because the position was indefensible and the actions taken were even less defensible, so I don’t think they have a place,” said English junior Adam Pierce.
Other students held a different view on the subject.
“I don’t think they should be tearing them down. They’ve been up for decades. People are just making a big issue over it, over politics,” said Michael Palacios, 3rd year criminal justice major.
Within hours of the council vote, representatives acting on behalf of the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that the removal of the monument would violate their First Amendment right to free speech, and further argued that the city does not hold the deed for the land where the monument currently resides.
The organization, who has an ongoing suit against the University of Texas at Austin, has lost previous lawsuits on similar issues, including one before the United States Supreme Court in 2015.
The growing national movement to remove Confederate vestiges began in South Carolina, when state legislators voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from statehouse grounds in Columbia two years ago. Since then, a string of city and state governments have followed their lead.
On Aug. 13, in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters on both sides of the hotly debated issue clashed, resulting in one death and numerous injuries, further fueling the contention on both sides.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott addressed the growing national trend in a statement saying, “Racist and hate-filled violence, in any form, is never acceptable, and as Governor I have acted to quell it.”
“Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future. As Governor, I will advance that future through peace, not violence, and I will do all I can to keep our citizens safe.”
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller recently agreed with the Governor’s sentiments on the nationwide trend.
“A sad day for Texas, and all of America,” Miller said. “To succumb to this scourge of race baiting and liberal activism.”
Councilman Shaw’s comments prior to the city council vote echoed the views of many on the opposing view from that of the Governor and Agriculture Commissioner.
“Let’s put away the icons of oppression, let’s put away the icons and symbols that suggest that ‘I am better than you.’” Shaw said.
Councilman Trevino supported his co-sponsor’s remarks with his own commentary on the issue.
“Equality means that our citizens shouldn’t be disenfranchised in public spaces by relics based on actions from another time,” Shaw said.
While the final determination on the issue will remain wrapped up in appeals for the near future, the monument was ultimately removed late Thursday night with little fanfare or protest.