Dallas mayor calls for task force to review Confederate statue removal

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is calling for a task force to review the potential removal of Confederate statues in the city.

Rawlings’ comments on Tuesday came in the wake of violence by white supremacists in Virginia and a growing number of Dallas council members who want to take down Confederate monuments in public spaces.

Rawlings said a task force will be created and work for 90 days and will present its findings to the Office of Cultural Affairs and its board. That board would then present to the city council. The council would take public comment and make a final decision.

“It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and say tear them down because it is frankly politically correct and makes us all feel good. I feel that way,” the mayor said. “But I hesitate. And the reason is I realize the city of Dallas is better, stronger when we are united and not divided."

Rawlings said he’s personally not a fan of the Confederate statues, but there must be a process before any decision can be made.

“We’ve got to be able to listen and talk to each other,” Rawlings said. “When we have a chance to learn from one another, we’ll take that moment.”

Confederate monuments are currently in place at a historic cemetery next to the Dallas Convention Center and at Robert E. Lee Park in Oak Lawn.

“I think they are dangerous totems in our Dallas society because they divide us versus unite us,” Rawlings said of the statues.

Councilman Philip Kingston has already proposed a vote on the issue.

“If he's convinced that these are symbols of racial propaganda, which I agree 100 percent, the path forward is pretty clear,” the councilman said. “Let's make a policy statement on how we use public property.”

When pressed, the mayor explained his reasons for wanting a slower process.

“The question is how are we going to start to heal on this issue,” Rawlings said. “To do that, we have to be able to listen and talk to one another. There is a process to do that."

Rawlings also discussed public safety ahead of what could be a massive protest against the monuments in downtown Dallas this weekend. Supporters of the monuments are also expected to show up.

Rawlings said Dallas police are ready for the event and will not interfere with a lawful assembly" but we will not tolerate violence of any kind."

The mayor wants to avoid the chaos seen on television last weekend in Charlottesville.

"We will not have street brawls in our city,” he said.

Historian Michael Phillips is part of a group pushing for the removal of the statue as soon as possible. He says any delays could be dangerous.

"This gives the most radical elements and opportunity to mobilize and organize," he said. "And this gives them time to essentially make Dallas the Alamo."

But Marshall Davis with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Texas says they welcome the opportunity to share their thoughts.

"I think this is a great time to have this conversation," he said. "And I appreciate the mayor asking for a task force to get citizen input into the importance of these monuments."

Supporters of the monument say the clashes in Charlottesville have muddled the symbolism of the monuments and fueling opinions of those who want to get rid of them.

"It is very unfortunate that groups that have different agendas," Davis said. "The white supremacists, neo nazi, white nationalist groups, have taken our symbols to their cause to our detriment."

There are a few options being talked about for the statues. One option would be to leave them but put them into context with explanations about the atrocities of the civil war. Another option could be to move them to another location. The last option would be to destroy them.

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