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11 Aug, 2017 21:18

New front in battle over Confederate monuments opens in Dallas

New front in battle over Confederate monuments opens in Dallas

Protesters from both sides came face-to-face in Dallas, Texas after activists called on city authorities to remove a Confederate monument. Similar efforts have been underway across the US since the 2015 mass shooting at a black church in South Carolina.

About 40 protesters stood in solidarity imploring city leaders to tear down the Confederate War Memorial in downtown Dallas on Thursday evening, local media reported. The group included members of the clergy and academia.

“These monuments pay homage to one thing and one thing only – racism,” said organizer Eric Ramsey of the activist group In Solidarity.

Historian Michael Phillips, who attended the protest, has created a petition calling for the removal of the monuments from public spaces in Dallas and for local schools named after Confederate icons to be changed. He calls the monuments “a shrine devoted to a toxic faith.”

“These monuments have done their insidious evil work. They have brainwashed generations,” Phillips told WFAA-TV. He wants the Dallas City Council to take up the issue of removing the monuments.

Twenty feet away, a group of eight men stood carrying Confederate flags. Several wore T-shirts reading “Sons of Confederate Veterans,” a group representing descendants of the losing side in the 1861-65 Civil War. Texas fought as part of the Confederacy of 11 states opposed to the anti-slavery presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

"To me it's history. It's a part of the Americas and for them to say '(The Confederacy) fought on the wrong side of history,' they weren't there to determine that. My family did what they thought was right," a man who would only identify himself as Daniel, told WFAA.

There was heightened security at the site, with police officers in uniforms and plain clothes, but only shouting matches broke out between the two sides. There were no arrests.

The Confederate War Memorial, situated between the Pioneer Park Cemetery and the Dallas Convention Center, includes a 60-ft granite and marble pillar topped by a statue of a soldier commemorating the deeds of those who fought on the Confederate side during the conflict, which claimed over 600,000 lives.

The main pillar is surrounded by four shorter plinths with statues of Confederate leaders - General Robert E. Lee, General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, General Albert Sidney Johnston, and President Jefferson Davis.

Any decision should be based on public input, Mayor Mike Rawlings told WFAA, adding that the city has already started gathering information, including looking into the process to remove some of the monuments.

Protests against Confederate monuments have been sweeping the US since the June 2015 mass shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter, who killed nine people and injured three more, said he wanted to “start a race war.”

South Carolina removed the Confederate flag memorial on the grounds of the state capitol in July that year. New Orleans, Louisiana has since removed several Confederate monuments, over the objections of Confederate heritage organizations.
In one Florida town, petitioners want to replace a Confederate monument with a tribute to the local zoo’s beloved manatee.

Plans by authorities in Charlottesville, Virginia to remove a Confederate statue from a city park have drawn protests from Confederate and alt-right activists on one hand and Black Lives Matter and “Antifa” on the other.

Meanwhile, the US Army has rejected calls from several members of Congress from New York to change the names of streets at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn named after Confederate generals.