Dallas council votes to take down Robert E. Lee statue, restraining order halts removal

A temporary restraining order halted the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from its namesake park in Oak Lawn just hours after the Dallas City Council signed off on its takedown.

The statue removal passed 13-1 midday Wednesday with only Councilwoman Sandy Greyson voting against. Councilman Rickey Callahan abstained.

Work began within an hour to remove the statue, with a crane moved into place and workers putting straps over the sculpture to be removed. But their work was halted at 4:30 p.m. when a district court judge granted a temporary restraining order to stop the work.

Sons of Confederate Veterans (Texas Division) asked for the restraining order. In their filing, they accused the City of Dallas of having an "Orwellian agenda" in attempting to take down the statue. The motion was filed by Kirk Lyons, a lawyer from North Carolina on behalf of a local member of the group.

Lyons says the temporary restraining order he filed in federal court will buy some extra time in order to settle this controversial issue.

“We just don't want to be looking over our shoulder to make sure that the city cranes aren't coming to get Lee while this is hashed out,” he said. “We want the judicial process to work."

Lyons is part of the Southern Legal Resource Center. He argued that removing the statue violates his client's free speech.  And since the Dallas City Council voted on it in a briefing session and not an agenda session, he believes there was no meaningful discussion.

"Hearing from a bunch of citizens with their three minutes is not due process for a monument that's been there over 80 years,” he argued.

Because of the large number of people signed up on Wednesday to address the council, speakers were only limited to one minute.

Hiram Patterson is the plaintiff listed on the temporary restraining order and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In order for it to be filed in Dallas, it needed to be filed by a Dallas resident.

"To me, they don't represent slavery. They are historical figures,” he said.

Patterson did not speak at or attend Wednesday’s council meeting. In fact, he hadn't seen the court documents until FOX 4 showed them to him. But he agrees with it.

"We want to keep the historical memory so that people can know what happened and learn from them,” he said.

The statue was set to be removed and taken away by Wednesday evening, with a task force still to determine what to do with the sculpture.

"There is no question in my mind that this city will be better tomorrow with this statue down," said Mayor Mike Rawlings.

“This is to be expected by a gentleman and the group that are anti peace,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Dwaine Caraway.

Crews set up barricades around the statue of the Confederate general at Lee Park in Oak Lawn ahead of the vote. Dallas police were staging at the entrance to the park for security.

"The time is now," said Councilman Scott Griggs. "I look forward to it coming down."

The vote came less than a month after a renewed push to remove the monuments began in Dallas. Mayor Mike Rawlings created a task force to examine what to do with the symbols of the Confederacy on Aug. 15. But enough council members wanted more immediate action on the Lee statue and an item to remove the statue immediately was placed on the council agenda for Wednesday.

Councilman Philip Kingston, who has been one of the leading advocates to remove the statue, said during the debate that the council should set a high moral standard.

“We do not need a task force to tell us right from wrong,” Kingston said. “These monuments represent a false telling of history.”

Callahan asked for a delay and a public referendum on what to do with all of the Confederate monuments, but it failed in a 4-11 vote.

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