Monument debate heats up as coalition forms
The first steps of a review into the historical accuracy of confederate monuments at the state capitol are getting underway. It was requested by House Speaker, Joe Straus. Meanwhile, the mayor of Austin is leading a larger discussion with other mayors: about how communities should respond to acts motivated by hate.
The voices of tour guides echoed through the state capitol rotunda Friday morning. While visitors learned about Texas history, at Austin City Hall - Mayor Steve Adler was taking part in a teleconference call - hoping to make history.
"Now mayors need to fill a vacuum and step forward and be the moral leaders,” said Mayor Adler.
Adler is leading a coalition of mayors who have signed a compact agreement to stand against acts motivated by racial hate.
" It’s being very clear that there are only two sides to racism, there is the wrong side of history and the right side to history,” said Adler.
The group, along with the Anti- Defamation League - formed in response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the violent clashes that resulted. As this coalition of mayors continues its broader discussion regarding race, there is a more specific discussion taking place at the state capitol; one that involves monuments and memorials.
There are 5 confederate monuments and memorials on the capitol grounds. The largest is the state Supreme Court building, where inside a plaque notes how the building was paid for with money from the confederate pension fund. The most prominent, near the south gate, has at the top a statute of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Those who spoke to FOX7 said they didn't want any torn down
"It’s just part of history, good or bad, its history,” said John Stout.
The idea of modifying and clarifying the monuments, however, got support.
"We need to know it and understand we made the mistake and learn from that,” said Pete Priest.
The most controversial memorial may be on a wall near the capitol rotunda. It was placed by members of a group called the Children of the Confederacy. Placed in 1959, it promotes the view the Civil War was not a rebellion and that slavery was not the underlying cause of the conflict. Questions about the memorial’s historical accuracy was raised by State Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas which prompted the request by Speaker Joe Straus. The following statement was sent to FOX7.
"Speaker Straus would like to see a State Preservation Board review of the accuracy of signs and monuments around the Capitol, and the Speaker will work with Representative Johnson and others on this issue."
A spokesman with the Preservation Board told FOX 7 that they are getting the following for the Speaker:
- A formal response.
- The Response will include background information on monuments and memorials.
-The Information is expected to be used for broader discussion regarding what to do about any inaccuracies.
Mayor Adler, who is dealing with his own confederate problem - involving street names offered this warning.
"It’s not about the shiny object, of attention, this is not about monuments, or roads, and this is about a much more involved conversation. But what’s happening today, the extremism we see, making sure there is no tolerance for that,” said Adler.
Other cities are also struggling to deal with their monuments. In Dallas 4 councilmembers called for all confederate monuments in that town to be torn down. In Houston, Police Chief Art Acevedo said he won't allow protestors to deface or destroy a confederate war memorial Saturday during a rally there. There is also a rally scheduled for Saturday in Austin. From 10 to noon- a rally against white supremacy groups will be held at city hall. A September 2nd rally in Austin by members of the Texas Confederate Militia has been postponed until the 23rd according to the group's Facebook page.