Mayor Rawlings wants task force to discuss fate of Confederate statues

Future of Confederate monuments uncertain

DALLAS - As tensions mount over Confederate monuments throughout the nation, Mayor Mike Rawlings says he wants to form a task force to discuss the possible removal of such monuments in the city of Dallas.

During his statement Tuesday, Rawlings called the statues "dangerous totems" that "divide us versus unite us." However, he said he was hesitant to decide their fate without undergoing a united process.

"Do you leave them, tear them down, put them in a museum?" he said.

To address those questions, the mayor called for the formation of a task force that would be appointed by members of the Dallas City Council. During a 90-day period, the task force would research the subject and then present a report to the Office of Cultural Affairs, which would go over the findings and then present a report to the city council.

From there, the Dallas City Council would open the discussion to the public and listen to recommendations from the Quality of Life Committee before coming to a decision. 

The mayor said he asked the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation initiative and the Dallas Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance to advise the task force. 

Focus and tensions over the controversial statues have risen after deadly violence broke out in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend while white supremacists gathered in the city for a "Unite the Right" rally.

But the fight to take down the monuments isn't new in Dallas.

As recently as July 10, groups gathered to protest the Confederate War Memorial, which honors Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The gathering attracted Confederate flag-toting counter protesters, who argued the monuments are historic and shouldn't be torn down.

Rawlings opened up his statement Tuesday by addressing the turmoil in Charlottesville.

"The fact that a Dallas native played a key role in organizing an event celebrating racists, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists made it extremely difficult being the mayor of Dallas," he said. 

"Like so many Americans, I was heartbroken to see this tragedy over the weekend because of the pain the bigots and racists can bring to a community," he continued. "We're mourning the loss of Heather Heyer, and as well as the two fallen Virginia State Police officers and ... all the other victims of the violence that unfolded over the weekend."

Heyer was killed Saturday when a driver plowed into a crowd of counter protesters marching through the streets of Charlottesville. The driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr., was charged with second-degree murder. 

That same day, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates were killed in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville. Cullen and Bates were watching over the protests in the helicopter when it plummeted to the ground and burst into flames. 

Rawlings also discussed the deadly ambush in downtown Dallas that took place on July 7, 2016 and left five officers dead.

"We know about this bigotry and hatred all too well in Dallas," Rawlings said. "A place that for so long was a bastion for the Klu Klux Klan and was dubbed 'The City of Hate.' A place where just 13 months ago, a madman came here to kill certain cops just because they were white." 

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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