Judge removes temporary restraining order, take down of Robert E. Lee statue to resume

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Work to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee in Dallas will resume after a judge ended a temporary restraining order that halted work on Wednesday.

A small crowd had gathered to watch the removal Wednesday afternoon after the Dallas City Council voted 13 to 1 to take it down. A crane to hoist the statue up was already in place when a federal judge halted the removal.

The judge granted a temporary restraining order request from an attorney named Kirk Lyons. He filed the motion on behalf of a local member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is the same group that is suing the University of Texas for the removal of its Confederate monument.

But the federal court that approved the TRO said Thursday afternoon that the veterans group failed to show the city was interfering with its first amendment rights or that the city didn't provide due process.

Descendants of Lee and supporters of the statue remaining were in the court room

“The City of Dallas does not hold title to that statue. They have taken that statue from the citizens of Dallas and what they’ve done with it is they are stealing it, right now, as we are standing here,” said John Lee, Great-Great Grandson of Robert E. Lee.

Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said after the hearing the city would resume work on taking down the statue but didn't specify when it would occur.

“The process will move forward, it will stay transparent,” Caraway said. “We will allow some time to get ourselves together and begin to determine what the next move will be. The statue will eventually be removed – when, we will not be able to say at this point.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE STATUE

The mayor’s task force met Thursday night to discuss what to do with the Robert E. Lee statue once it’s taken down. They made their recommendation after taking public comments.

The task force voted to rename Robert E. Lee Park. It’s not a done deal, but it is simply what it will recommend to the Dallas City Council.

There was also discussion about the task forces roll. The passionate debate of Confederate monuments was on display during a public comment portion of the meeting both for and against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.

“It breaks my heart to think that people just want to erase it like it never happened,” one person said. “I mean how can we teach it? And I also think history is important. It wasn't right, but it was important."

“Any evidence of Confederate Honor on public property needs to be erased,” another person said. “It's almost too full to say that. But I saw enough racism last week that it's got to change. It's got to change.

While the statue is making headlines, the task force also has to consider other references to the Confederacy, like the Robert E. Lee statue that sits in Pioneer Park Cemetery or street names like Throckmorton Street in Oak Lawn named for James Throckmorton, the twelfth governor of Texas and a Confederate soldier.

If the park board agrees, Lee Park would automatically revert back to its original name, Oak Lawn Park. But the board would also look for alternate names.

City staff also said they've been getting all kinds of calls for people making various offers of what to do with the statue. Options include putting it in a cemetery, a museum, private collection or having it be publicly accessible in Dallas or elsewhere.

The task force plans to meet again and discuss the monuments next Friday.

AN ARTIST REMEMBERS

During the day on Thursday, Dallas artist Jerrel Sustaita worked to capture the sculpture on canvas before it's placed in temporary storage.

“I might not be able to make this painting tomorrow. I've been intending to do it for years. Never took the time to.” Sustaita said.

Sustaita says art is often controversial, which is what sparks important dialogue.

"I'm seeing two riders, I'm perceiving they've been on a long journey together. The horse of the younger rider appears tired. His steps are heavy. His head is droopy. He'd like nothing more than to take a break,” Sustaita said. “The horse of the older rider seems to know this ridge, and know just on the other side is a better place to take a break, greener grass, fresh water.”

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