Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings changed direction Friday afternoon on his plan for the city's four Confederate statues and monuments. While Rawlings initially called for three months of public meetings and deliberation by a task force, the mayor says now that he wants the City Council's Quality of Life Committee briefed on the issue Oct. 23.
Two days later, the council will take public comment at a special meeting, and a final council vote on statue removal would take place Nov. 8. Activists who've been working to get the monuments removed for months said Monday that the mayor's plan is not good enough.
"We believe these totems to be an offense to both historical accuracy and the sensibilities of [Dallas'] minority residents," said Gerald Britt, vice president of City Square. "The only way to redeem this tragic aspect of our history is to tear these monuments down and tear them down now."
Britt supports a competing plan for the statues pushed by Dallas City Council members Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Omar Narvaez, Mark Clayton and Philip Kingston. The council members' plan starts with a decision to remove the statues and would appoint a task force to decide how they should be disposed of. The City Council will be forced to vote on a resolution supporting statue removal by Sept. 27, more quickly than Rawlings' accelerated timetable.
Two other City Council members, Casey Thomas and Tennell Atkins, initially signed on to the memo calling for a vote but withdrew their names and supported the mayor's plan for a lengthier process.
Essentially, the activists' fight with Rawlings is about when to remove the statues, rather than whether they should be removed at all. So far, there's been little in the way of local organized opposition to getting rid of the statues in Dallas. In the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month, former Dallas City Council member and perennial political candidate Sandra Crenshaw made the rounds on local TV news saying that removing the statues wouldn't help the plight of Dallas' black community.
“I’m not intimidated by Robert E. Lee’s statue. I’m not intimidated by it. It doesn’t scare me,” Crenshaw told KTVT-TV (CBS 11). “We don’t want America to think that all African-Americans are supportive of this.”
Marshall Davis, a spokesman for the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he welcomed Rawlings' call for a discussion about the monuments. "I think this is a great time to have this conversation," he told KDFW-TV (FOX 4). "And I appreciate the mayor asking for a task force to get citizen input into the importance of these monuments."
Alia Salem, the former executive director of the North Texas chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said it's important the city of Dallas acts quickly to get rid of the monuments, citing decisions by the the city of Baltimore and the University of Texas to remove Confederate monuments over the past two weeks.
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"We are calling on the mayor to act now. He has said that he is a progressive leader. He has said that he is a moral leader. He has said that he is going to act soon," Salem said. "There is no reason for delay. There is a time that is right, and that time is now."
The Rev. Michael Waters, senior pastor of Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church, said that getting rid of the statues as soon as possible is necessary for the city of Dallas to fulfill its promise for its residents.
"Why are we waiting and delaying bringing down monuments that never should have been erected in the first place," he asked. "If Dallas is to live true to what it says it is — a city that works, is vibrant, diverse and progressive — it is imperative that we move with haste to bring these monuments down."
Rawlings, who personally supports removing the monuments, said last week that he supports a longer path to getting rid of the city's Confederate relics because he wants to make sure the city is united about what to do with them. Council members' appointees to Rawlings' proposed task force are due this week.