Those For, Against Confederate Monument Square Off in Travis Park

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Demonstrators in opposition of the removal of the Confederate monument in Travis Park wave those outside of the fence away with their flags.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Demonstrators in opposition of the removal of the Confederate monument in Travis Park wave those outside of the fence away with their flags.

Visitors approaching Travis Park on Saturday afternoon had to navigate police officers on alert, lines of barricades, and a question: Which side of this protest are you on?

One group of demonstrators saw a monument commemorating Confederate military veterans and the pride of Southern heritage. Another group saw a glaring symbol of white supremacy and a marker for efforts to maintain slavery. Between them were lines of San Antonio Police Department officers trying to direct individuals to one corner or another, or out of the park entirely.

“This is not the place or the time to have a debate about what you think,” said SAPD Officer A. M. Zeldes, pointing a group of men toward the barricaded corner of the park where bright red Confederate battle flags waved above the This Is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF) rally.

The rally drew around 300 demonstrators demanding that the Confederate monument in the center of Travis Park remain standing there as it has for the past 118 years. Armed men carrying assault rifles, shotguns, and sidearms patrolled the perimeter of the corner, granting or denying entrance to the event at their discretion.

Across from the TITFF rally, in a separately barricaded corner of the park, was an SATX4 led counter-protest where around 100 protesters demanded the removal of the monument from the park.

Nearly two weeks of concerted action from City Council to have the monument relocated preceded Saturday’s demonstrations. City Councilmen Roberto Treviño (D1) and William “Cruz” Shaw (D2) filed a council consideration request on July 31 asking for full council consideration of the matter, and fellow Council members Rey Saldaña (D4), Ana Sandoval (D7), and John Courage (D9) signed in support.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) speaks in support of removing the Confederate monument in Travis Park.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg posted a statement on social media Saturday evening praising the efforts of residents and the police department to keep the rallies peaceful.

“I’m proud of San Antonio because of our kindness, of being neighbors who help neighbors, and our ability to come together to move our city forward,” he said. “We will always seek to be the best versions of ourselves, a city that learns, grows, and transcends the past.

“… We are committed to remembering the past, while replacing oppression with justice, and building equity where there was once segregation.”

Nirenberg expressed confidence that the city’s residents can come together to find a solution “that continues to honor our American free speech traditions.”

In a statement sent before the demonstrations on Saturday, Treviño said the CCR “to create a more inclusive and welcoming Travis Park” has been submitted to the Council’s Governance Committee.

While Councilmen Treviño and Shaw didn’t attend the protests, Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) spoke in favor of removing the monument inside of the SATX4 corner.

“The institution of slavery is an ugly, terrible, most horrific thing you can do to a person,” Calvert declared through the speakers. “But they want to honor and glorify and lift up slavery and the Confederacy. We’re not going back there.”

Yet it is exactly that part of the Confederacy’s history that groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) believe eclipse any other histories about the Southern movement in the Civil War.

“We’re never going to say that ‘No, slavery didn’t have an issue in it,’ because it did have an issue in it,” said Festus Allcock, one of the Sons of Confederate Veterans at the rally. “But it was a minor issue. It was taxes and trade tariffs that was the primary cause of the war. The fact of the matter is they were fighting for their farms, their families, and their state.”

Verbal confrontations could be heard throughout the park as demonstrators walked toward designated corners. With the atmosphere tense and weapons on open display, SAPD sought to limit any smaller factions of demonstrators from protesting outside the two established camps.

Officers directed a small group of Proud Boys, a pro-Western fraternal organization identifiable by their Fred Perry polo shirts, out of the SATX4 corner.

“It sucks being separated,” said a Proud Boy who gave his name as Ian. “We’re here for conversation and discussion. Everyone’s with different groups, and it’s really disheartening when you hear people, especially police officers, say this is not the time or the place for any kind of discussion. Well, I couldn’t disagree more.”

Other encounters required more police force. Anti-fascist demonstrators, covered in black with helmets and makeshift shields, were physically corralled into the SATX4 corner.

That encounter resulted in the arrest of Mike Murphy for disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer, according to officials at the scene.

“I have other things that I would like to be doing,” said TITFF President Robert Beverly. “But I can’t afford to. Not just for statues, but for the inequities that we’re going through as a society. And you’re not going to mess with my Texas without me giving you a fight.”

Speakers at the TITFF rally stated the importance of remembering history, heritage, and respecting the memory of all veterans. They also encouraged individuals to appear at upcoming City Council meetings.

TITFF formed in June to rally around the Sam Houston statue in Houston, according to TITFF Vice President Brandon Burkhart. The group had heard rumors that the monument was going to be removed or vandalized.

This Is Texas Freedom Force Vice President Brandon Burkhart prepares to speak in opposition of the removal of the Confederate monument in Travis Park.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

This Is Texas Freedom Force Vice President Brandon Burkhart prepares to speak in opposition of the removal of the Confederate monument in Travis Park.

Burkhart feels that there’s a real possibility that the monument in San Antonio could be relocated. He wanted Saturday’s rally and speeches to focus on educating passersby.

“We want to educate them so they can stop and think, ‘We know the Ku Klux Klan and others have taken that Confederate Flag and given it a really bad reputation,'” Burkhart said to the Rivard Report over the phone Friday afternoon. “But there’s so much more history to that than that. At some point we’re going to have to stop these guys from flying that flag, because that doesn’t belong to them. That belongs to the veterans.”

During the demonstrations in San Antonio, concurrent rallies involving groups of white nationalists, some bearing Confederate flags, in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to a fatality after a car drove into a group of counter-protesters. The white nationalists had gathered to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In San Antonio, groups on either side of the Confederate monument issue are prepared for a protracted fight over the statue at Travis Park. A monument relocation vote is not currently an item on a City Council agenda. TITFF has stated they will seek to legally fight any measure to move the monument and recall councilmen Treviño and Shaw.

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16 thoughts on “Those For, Against Confederate Monument Square Off in Travis Park

  1. The Proud Boys may choose to split hairs regarding their portrayal in the media, but this is who they choose to ally themselves with: https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/04/25/new-alt-right-fight-club-ready-street-violence

    The Sons of Confederate Veterans claim they are just protecting their heritage, but this is who they draw out to support them. It’s time for these people to choose: are you a proud American who stands by ALL citizens or are you ok being affiliated with white supremacists? There is no middle ground here.

    • It is so easy to categorize all those who stand up for American History as “white nationalist or white supremacists” instead of listening the to their true hearts of the matter. The left and the media is doing everything to label ALL of those standing up for this country as “racists”. This country will never be a strong nation as long as the media continues to work with the left to divide us. The left doesn’t care about all those who died in past wars, nor do they care to listen to those of us who want to preserve our history. It is so much easier to feed the uneducated all their lies so that they can obtain complete control of everyone. When people start waking up and seeing things for what they are, then we will become “One Nation Under God”.

      • No, I said the SCV have a choice. I intentionally did not say that all those at the rally who want to keep the statue are racists; I know they are not. But the fact remains that the symbols and heritage that they seek to defend has been irretrievably co-opted by radical white supremacist groups. There can never be a redemption for the Stars and Bars. That symbol will forever be associated with lynch mobs and the KKK. We don’t get to pick and choose our history. Just as the swastika was once a symbol of good fortune in Hinduism until it was corrupted by its association with Nazism, the Confederate flag cannot be flown without drawing up all of the good and bad history associated with it.
        Do you really believe that you have more in common with someone like David Duke or Richard Spencer, two avowed white supremacists, than you do with someone like the Rev. William Barber, a civil rights leader? Duke and Spencer hold the same ideals that our men in uniform were fighting against in WWII. I do care about the men and women of our armed forces who died in that terrible war. I care about them so much that I work to uphold the values they fought for and reject the ideas that run counter to our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
        History is one thing. Ideology is another. Which is more important to you?

  2. What foolishness from this city council. How about working on the astounding crime rate in our city and fixing our streets before you go spending hundred’s of thousands of dollars removing a monument that has stood peacefully for over a century. People are too easily offended these days. Get over yourself!

  3. I attended the San Antonio rally yesterday as well as the one in Houston in June representing the Texas Freedom Force. They are not haters. The rally began with an announcement that the rally was not open to KKK, skinheads or supremists. We do not support their beliefs or condone their actions. ( unfortunately these other groups carry the Stars and Bars flag and thus are often mistaken for us)

    This particular monument in Travis Square in San Antonio is dedicated to all whom died in the War Between the States. The statue was the first ever to be designed by a woman and actually erected. The funds to build it were raised by mothers who lost sons and husbands in the war. Because of the statue presence, that square became an inner city park instead of another parking lot!!

    The entire confederacy is about courage and willingness to stand up for what you believe. In the eyes of the Confederacy, The Civil War was about taxation and states rights. It had been less than 100 years since America had won her freedom from England and the south saw the actions of the north as a reminder of what could repeat if they did not take action.
    I think we can all agree that slavery was an abomination of that era. But remember, originally even northerners had slaves too. They just began to move away from that practice sooner. America as a whole was one of the last countries to give women the right to vote (1920) when up to then women were “owned” by their husbands.

    America had to evolve – which it has. There will always be individuals who act with hatred but they should be dealt with on an individual basis, not generalized. So for groups such as the SATX4 and black lives matter to go around looking for reasons to be offended is, in my opinion, an effort to divide our country, not unite it.
    America is not perfect by any means, but has high standards in protecting human rights. With the mobility of the world population we always face the possibility of foreign forces coming to our country with intent to impose on us their customs and beliefs which do not align with ours or our constitution. Should that ever occur believe me at that time you will be begging for the courage and pride of the Confederacy to step up and help America defend herself.

  4. May I just point out the cognitive dissonance in your last sentence? The formation of the Confederacy was the complete opposite of stepping up to “help America defend herself.” The founders and defenders of the confederacy were seeking to tear America in half. It just seems ironic to cite the “courage and pride of the Confederacy” while attempting to protect the very union of the states it sought to break.

  5. Everybody tries to rewrite history to suit their belief. Big mistake. Learn from history. The civil-war was about tariffs and the hegemony of the north-east imposing its will on the rest of the union. Remember the industrial revolution was underway and England’s textile industry was competing for cotton. Northern states were able to pass tariffs in congress to prohibit cotton being shipped to England without taxes; to the benefit of the north-east, e.g. the grate pirate state of NY & NYC. Abolition was only a marginalized voice and influence. The civil war was NOT about abolition of slavery, no matter how bad you need to rewrite history. Lincoln was barely able to pass the Emancipation Proclamation.
    As usual poor people fought and bled for their master both in the South and North. My ancestor was a Ohio Regular, a not a volunteer, a mark of shame for not volunteering. He was a poor 20 acres subsistence farmer in the Ohio valley, unable to pay the $100 conscript tax, which exempted many New Yorkers. Those who paid the conscripts tax stayed home and made money from sale of armaments and war supplies. My poor relation took a bullet at Antietam and latter dysentery. His service to the Union was rewarded when on going home, he lost his farm unable to pay the property taxes, not being able to farm a cash crop during the war. The local Ohio bankers and privileged elites took farms from returning soldiers. By WW-I the laws had been changed so an absent conscripted farmer could not loose is farm while serving.

    So go ahead, pull the statues down. Have your political correct sanitized view of history. Why not just raise more statues to provide a counter balancing view of history? History is always revised. But, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”.

    • Yes, the north-east hegemony wanted to impose their will of making slavery uneconomical and preventing it from spreading into new states. The Southern states seceeded and became traitors to the country and caused unneeded death and economic ruin on millions. Definitely nothing to brag about,, but when thats all you have, i guess it makes sense. Texas public education must have very minimal US history standards based on what excuses I hear people give for Southern responsibiluty for the Civil War.

  6. Dear DeepEddy – Go read some historical documents and you will find that each State’s Declaration of Secession makes the defense of slavery a clear objective. While some issues included States Rights and disagreements over tariffs, the greatest divide was on the issue of slavery. The states’ rights that they were fighting for was the right to run a slave-based economy! The Civil War was primarily fought over slavery. Period. This country was founded on the genocide of American Indians and slavery. Learn your history people and quit trying to “white-wash” it.

  7. Maybe the Texas Declaration of Secession could be added to the display. People could read and decide for themselves whether or not the Confederacy wanted to keep human beings in bondage. It’s clear in the document itself.

  8. This was about to happen. Matte of time. Allowing guns to be carried in the open is causing all this…The gun carriers think they are bad ass now that they can show the guns…Take the guns away and they would not even be there…They are trying to intimate everyone…time to ban guns once again except for law enforcement…..

    • “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Try reading the Constitution for once.

  9. I’m disappointed that Council has not steered any of the current conversation towards (re-)removing the two Confederate cannons from Travis Park — which were not in the park from approximately 2011 to 2014 (based on Google streetview imagery and descriptions of the cannons being placed in City storage).

    According to the City’s history of Travis Park, the Confederate cannons were abandoned at the Battle of Valverde (in New Mexico — along the Camino Real as part of the Confederate / Sibley campaign for California) and retrieved by Confederate Major Trevanion T. Teel after the war and donated to the City. The cannons were parked in Travis Park in the late 1800s (close to thirty years after the Civil War ended and apparently considered controversial at the time — the ‘scoff of a later generation’) and have been moved around to various points within the park over the years as mobile weaponry.

    The Confederate cannons do not serve to memorialize the Civil War dead and should not have been reintroduced in Travis Park as part of recent City of San Antonio ‘revitalization’ of the park — work supported, in part, by Southwest Airlines and the St Anthony Hotel (part of Marriott International Inc.).

    The cannons should be returned to the battlefield where they were used and abandoned by the Confederates in their retreat back to San Antonio; Fort Craig, New Mexico (Socorro County) National Park Service would likely be the best recipient. At Fort Craig, the cannons could help to serve as a reminder of how the Confederacy was defeated in New Mexico in 1862, including with the aid of the ‘mostly Hispanic 1st New Mexico Volunteers commanded by Colonel Kit Carson’.

    See:

    Walking Tour of Historic Travis Park (City of San Antonio)
    https://www.sanantonio.gov/portals/0/Files/HistoricPreservation/TravisParkWalkingTour-OHP.pdf

    VALVERDE, BATTLE OF
    https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qev01

    Fort Craig National Historic Site (National Park Service)
    https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/el_camino_real_de_tierra_adentro/Fort_Craig.html

  10. We have a well regulated militia, it’s the Texas National Guard. Let’s not BS each other, one group keeps showing up armed to the teeth, and the purpose is undeniably clear, intimidation.

  11. To those who hold that slavery played a minor role; or who hold to the disingenuous “states’ rights” when the states’ rights they are defending are the right to own slaves, read the Texas Declaration of Secession and try and tell me that it was not about white supremacy and the right to own slaves:

    “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

    That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.”

    The Texas Declarations of Secession doesn’t mention tariffs at all, but it sure does a grand job of exalting white men and proclaiming the inequality of African Americans.

    You want it to be about a non-existent “Lost Cause” which at best was a salve to Southern egos and at worst an expression of re-assertion of white supremacy and Jim Crow legislation that went hand in hand with such monuments.

    Even if the only purpose of the monument was to “Our Confederate Dead” it still has no place in the public square. I am opposed to its destruction and support it being moved to the Confederate Cemetery. As it is, the monument and other Confederate symbols have been co-opted and re-purposed by an ascendant far right who have tarnished forever what luster might have remained on Confederate monuments. It also cannot escape the intimate tie between its construction not only as a memorial, but also as a assertion of white domination in the political and cultural realms and as visible reminder and support of the pernicious “Lost Cause” justification of the Confederate role in the Civil War.

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