Opposition group rises in effort to slow Dallas City Council vote on Robert E. Lee statue

Opposition group rises in effort to slow Dallas City Council vote on Robert E. Lee statue

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A new group is making a last-ditch effort to keep the Gen. Robert E. Lee statue standing in an Oak Lawn park.

Dallas Citizens for Unity and Reconciliation hopes the City Council will hold off on its scheduled vote Wednesday on a resolution that calls for the immediate removal of the Lee Park monument while a task force deliberates on what to do about the city’s other Confederate symbols.

"It looked like it was just moving too fast," said Hank Tatum, one of the group’s leaders. "We wanted to slow the train down a little bit."

Tatum said the sculpture of Lee and a young soldier astride horses "is a handsome statue" that doesn’t deserve the bum’s rush.

The group’s other leaders are former Dallas Morning News columnist William Murchison; Pierce Allman, an executive with Allie Beth Allman & Associates; real estate executive Kirby White; and Jane Manning, the co-founder of the group that became the Lee Park and Arlington Hall Conservancy.

Tatum, a retired associate editorial page editor at The News, said approximately 100 people have also been involved with the group in an informal way. Tatum said one of them, whom he declined to identify and described as "one of our city leaders," paid for the Mayes Media Group and Cherry Communications in Tallahassee, Fla., to survey Dallas voters on the Lee Park monuments.

The poll of 503 registered Dallas voters, conducted Thursday through Sunday, began with a preamble: "A group of Dallas leaders are proposing an alternative plan that would keep the General Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Park. Under their plan, the city would leave the Lee statue in the park with the addition of a plaque explaining the historical perspective of the statue. Private funds would then pay for a statue or series of statues in a nearby park that celebrate achievements of the African-American community."

The caller then asked respondents whether they would support the plan or prefer the removal of the statues. Only 29 percent supported the statues’ removal and more than 57 percent said they’d supported the "alternative plan."

No such alternative plan exists right now. But Tatum said the plan could come together with more time.

"It’s my understanding that the committee is talking to certain people who are interested in doing that," Tatum said. "If the council is willing to stop and reconsider what they’re planning right now, that would be something they would be happy to lead."

The group was supportive of Mayor Mike Rawlings’ initial push for a deliberative task force process with public input. Rawlings had said he wanted to bring the city together.

But as the days went on and the national debate heated up, the mayor and the city’s black council members became more adamant about their desire to see the monuments come down — other council members and religious leaders had already called for a speedy removal — and placed an item on the council’s agenda.

Council member Tennell Atkins, who represents Council District 8 in southeastern Dallas, said he’s already heard his community’s opinion on the matter.

"The people I heard from in District 8 said, ‘Take them down,’" he said.

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