AUSTIN, Texas - Access to the Texas State Capitol was closed when protesters back in May stormed the grounds and committed acts of vandalism. However, sealing off the complex has not shielded several of the monuments there from being the focus of an ongoing debate.
A letter signed by members of the Texas House and Senate committees on administration Monday renews the call for monuments that dedicated to those who supported the Confederacy to be taken down. Among those who signed was state Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston).
"I think it’s important to say here, we are not here to cast blame, I’m always reminded of the quote by Maya Angelou who said, 'when you know better, you do better'," Thierry said. "At the time, perhaps people really didn't know better, but we do know better now and it’s time to do better. And so we need to remove these images."
On the Capitol grounds, the letter targets:
- The cannons used by Confederates forces
- The soldiers' monument near the south gate which has CSA President Jefferson Davis at the top
- The Terry's Texas Rangers monument
- The Hood's Texas Brigade monument on the east side
"It’s time to correct the record, these are not our patriots, there are so many men, and women, that we could immortalize,” said Thierry.
Setting up markers or relocating the monuments to museums are not suitable options for Thierry.
"I don't know that the Holocaust Museum has any portraits and pictures of Adolf Hitler, I don’t know where Saddam Hussein's statue is in Iraq right now, where we saw the moment he was knocked down on the ground in the town square, as far as I'm concerned, they can melt those bronze statues, I think they have a coin shortage right now, we can turn them into coins for all I care," Thierry said. "If you are going to put them in a hallway it needs to be clear, that you are going into a hallway that supported slavery."
The call also includes the removal of paintings inside the Capitol, including a portrait in the House Chamber of Irish-born Confederate officer Dick Dowling and portraits of Jefferson Davis and Albert Sidney Johnston in the Senate Chamber. The creation of a special working group is also requested to identify Confederate items on all state property.
The letter was sent to state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler) who chairs the Senate Committee on Administration and a committee reviewing portraits in the Senate Chamber. State Rep.Charlie Geren (R-Lake Worth), chairman of the House Administration Committee, was also sent a copy of the latter and well as the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker Bonnen, and the State Preservation Board.
"Talking with where it starts but we don’t want more of the usual, business as usual, which is just lip service,” said Thierry.
That effort could rename places like the John H. Reagan state office building. It’s already on the list because Reagan served as postmaster general of the Confederacy as well as the Secretary of the Treasury.
Change, however, could be difficult and slow. Last year a wall plaque in the Capitol was removed after more than a year of calls to take it down. The wording in the display stated the cause of the Civil War was not slavery.
Removing it was a lengthy process despite it being inaccurate. Removing the monuments could be even more emotionally charged.