Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway has an idea to break the stalemate over what to do with City Hall's Confederate memorial: Put Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on top of the damn thing.
The Dallas City Council voted 9-6 Wednesday to put off deciding the fate of the Confederate War Memorial between City Hall and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
"To take it down and leave absolutely nothing, to put some grass and some benches in the area where we took it down — to only do that means that you would only have a Confederate cemetery," Caraway told the Observer on Wednesday. "You have a base that has nothing to do with the five statues that are sitting on top of it. Cost-wise, do you spend $500,000 and take down the whole statue and destroy it, or do you try to add history that's not been told?"
Caraway said the statue could be modified to teach future visitors about Dallas leaders who fought throughout their lives for civil rights.
"You take the five little people off those little stands where they are. You take off that man, you saw the other man off. You take him off. You take him off. You take him off at the top," Caraway says. "Then just include,
instead of destroy, maybe [Dallas lynching victim] Allen Brooks and a plaque with his history in bronze atop one of those pedestals. Include Pancho Medrano, who has been a civil rights icon back in the day, even walking with Martin Luther King, and the history of Pancho Medrano.
"These are just examples. Include [former Dallas City Council member] Juanita Craft with the NAACP and all of the things that she's been about here in the city of Dallas. Include Roy Williams [co-plaintiff in the lawsuit that created Dallas' single-member district City Council system], who's been a discussion point, he and Marvin [Crenshaw] on one of those pedestals. And, maybe at the very top, here's Martin Luther King."
Caraway says that those on the council led by Philip Kingston and Scott Griggs, who want the statue to be removed and destroyed, didn't have all their I's dotted and T's crossed because there was no timeline or budget for removal in the council agenda. Griggs called upon his colleagues Wednesday to commit to removing the statue because it was the right thing to do.
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"It is not in the interest of justice or in the interest of this city to drag this issue on," Griggs said, worrying that putting off the vote could lead to a series of delays.
Kevin Felder, the lone African-American council member against delaying the vote, accused those who supported the delay of participating in a "shadow plan" but didn't elaborate on the details.
Caraway says that that there is no plan; he just feels that the council should take more time — beyond the seven months of press conferences, task force meetings, council meetings and briefings that have already occurred — deciding what to do with the monument.
"Today wasn't a day that all of this should've been on our agenda," Caraway says. "My opinion personally is that it should've come item by item on different days, vetted out properly where it is explained to the public on all sides, so we can come to a better understanding and a community agreement."