Debate continues over Dallas Confederate monuments

A Dallas city council member is waging a mini-protest of his own over the plan to remove Confederate statues.

Philip Kingston also wants them removed but thinks the process of a task force is too slow. So he says he’s not appointing anyone to it like other council members.

It'll cost $4 million to remove, store and relocate two Confederate monuments in Dallas, according to Mayor Pro-Tem Dwaine Caraway.

City Councilman Philip Kingston says that's not a real estimate.

“Is that what Dwaine said? Well, I guess we'll have to trust Dwaine on that, but I don't believe it one bit,” Kingston said. “My reaction probably shouldn't be shown on the evening news because it's a word that starts with ‘b.’”

Kingston has led the call among council to get the statues removed. Caraway provided a memo from city staff Monday that quoted $1.8 million to get rid of the statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Park and the Confederate monument at Pioneer Park Cemetery.

But Kingston laughingly says he'll bid to bulldoze them.

“Perhaps this is another tactic to achieve a delay,” he said.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings seems to have accelerated the process to get them taken down, asking each council member Monday to appoint a citizen to serve on a task force that will help determine what to do with the monuments once they are removed. Kingston refused to appoint someone, saying it's all taking too long

“The mayor's saying wait. Dwaine's saying wait. Well, Dr. King told us wait means never,” Kingston said.

In a statement Tuesday, Caraway said, "It's [Kingston] fighting against somebody else, NOT fighting for blacks," while Caraway says he's trying to protect the taxpayers.

There is a consensus among Kingston and Caraway that the council will likely vote on whether to remove the statues on September 27 although it is not on the agenda.

Mayor Mike Rawlings was out of town on Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

While some Dallas city leaders say there is no doubt the monuments will come down, opponents have something else in store.

At least one group in favor of preserving the monuments is getting ready to take their battle to court. As officials start to study how to remove the monuments, supporters of the monuments are saying not so fast. Some are now launching new efforts to keep the monuments altogether.

Don Swindler knows there might not be many more chances to bask in the monolith of Confederate history in Pioneer Park Cemetery in Downtown Dallas.

“You can read history in a text book, but reflecting on this doesn't give the same feel as some paper pages out of a history book,” he said.

In the wake of a tense rally Saturday demanding the monuments come down, Mayor Rawlings echoed the statements of many council members saying the statutes will come down.

But as a task force will soon study how to do that, opponents like the group ‘This is Texas Freedom Force’ are still holding out hope. The organization, which has held rallies at other Texas monuments, could soon hold its own event.

“We will be answering, we will be letting folks have the opportunity to show in force our opposition to this behavior,” said Robert Beverly, president of the group.

But it might not simply show its force. The group also wants to explore legal options.

When New Orleans began discussing its Confederate monuments, several legal battles delayed the removal before the city ultimately tore them down.

And prior to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, there were legal challenges to the monument's removal. For the time being, the city says it will now cover them.

“We are enlisting legal counsel as well as historical counsel,” Beverly said. “And we are trying to find ways to stop this behavior.”

The method pro-monument groups will use to fight the battle is still up in the air. But its mission is clear.

“This is about folks that have died for our country, whether you agree with the position at the time or not,” Beverly said.

‘This is Texas Freedom Force’ did not counter-protest Saturday's rally because they say they are not a group that does anything with race and did not want to be a part of an event so focused on race.

It's unclear what, if any, legal avenues there would be to stop the removal of the monuments.