Lee Statue Cleared For Removal After Texas Court Hearing, No Timeline Provided

Lee statue cleared for removal after court hearing, but no timeline provided

DALLAS - The Robert E. Lee statue was cleared to come down after a brief court hearing Thursday but city council members did not provide a timeline on when the iconic monument would be removed.

The temporary restraining order granted late Wednesday afternoon to halt the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Dallas' Turtle Creek neighborhood has been dissolved.

U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Fitzwater ruled the plaintiff in the case failed to show it would likely succeed if the case were to proceed further, which is required in order to keep a temporary restraining order, or TRO, in place. 

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Hiram Patterson of Dallas is listed as the plaintiff along with the organization "Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc.,".

In the one-hour long hearing, attorney David Vandenberg of Austin argued his client had his right to due process and denial of free speech infringed upon after the city of Dallas voted 13-1 on Wednesday to remove the Lee statue.

Attorneys for the city of Dallas countered saying anyone opposing the resolution had required 72 hours notice the meeting was occurring and was afforded the opportunity to voice their opinion on the proposal, negating any due process claim.

Assistant city attorney Larry Casto added the plaintiff was seeking to "tell city what its speech will be on city property", and that the plaintiff had no "property of liberty interest" in the case.

From the bench, Fitzwater read a prepared ruling at the end of arguments from both sides.

He said the plaintiff "failed to clearly establish Dallas violated free speech when it (the city) engaged in its own expression" and that the removal of the Lee statue did not equate to a violation of constitutional rights.

 

The request for a restraining order was filed by Hiram Patterson with the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and granted by Judge Sidney Fitzwater.

A hearing is now scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

The Dallas city council had approved a resolution to immediately remove the statue by a 13-1 vote earlier Wednesday.

Crews had been working for over three hours to begin the removal of the statue. A crane was in place and workers had put straps around the statue, giving the appearance that a hoist was imminent. Shortly after 4:30 p.m., though, the straps were undone and work stopped.

Wednesday's vote followed a resolution proposed by three of the four black council members last week, seeking the immediate removal of the Robert E. Lee monument, which doesn't have the same historical protection as other Confederate monuments in the city. 

According to the city council agenda for Wednesday, resolution also supports a task force appointed to decide the fate of the Confederate statues, demanding at least two public meetings to receive public input.

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The resolution, signed by Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway and Councilmen Casey Thomas II and Tennell Atkins, also permits the council to “take further action as needed” in regards to the “renaming of certain public places” currently named after members of the Confederacy.

Lee Park is home to the Robert E. Lee monument.

The 20-member task force announced by Mayor Mike Rawlings in August has not yet made a recommendation on the city’s Confederate statues.

City of Dallas representatives say they will store the Robert E. Lee statue at Hensley Field, a city-owned storage facility in far west Dallas, until the task force decides what to do with it long term.

Photos: Crews remove Robert E. Lee monument in Turtle Creek

Councilman Rickey Callahan made a motion on Wednesday to table the decision on the Lee statue until Nov. 15, when Dallas County voters would have decided its fate.

That motion failed, with eleven council members voting against the delay. Four voted in favor.

Wednesday’s vote was met with some opposition. The newly-formed Dallas Citizens for Unity and Reconciliation, which describes itself as “a non-partisan group of community leaders, concerned citizens who are dedicated to the preservation of the Confederate monuments in Dallas,” was working to stop the vote.

“We need a large group of advocates in the audience to support the speakers who oppose the statue's removal, the Council's tyrannical approach to this issue and failure to allow citizens to determine the future of the Lee statue and other historical, artistic and cultural monuments,” read a public Facebook post from one of the group’s supporters.

When he announced his desire for a task force, Rawlings called the statues "dangerous totems" that "divide us versus unite us." However, he said he was hesitant to decide their fate without undergoing a united process.

The councilmen behind the resolution wanted the city manager to release the funds necessary for the changes, and ask that parks and streets with Confederate names be renamed.

Confederate Monuments resolution: September 6 resolution by wfaachannel8 on Scribd

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