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'Bring These Monuments Down': In Downtown Dallas, Thousands Protest White Supremacy

Thousands of protesters denounced white supremacy and called for the removal of Confederate monuments at a rally in downtown Dallas Saturday night — one week after protests over the same issues spurred violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Later, a separate, smaller demonstration at nearby Pioneer Plaza extended into the night.

About half an hour into the protest, the Dallas Police Department estimated 2,300 people had filled City Hall Plaza. The event, originally planned to be held at the nearby Confederate War Memorial in Pioneer Plaza, was moved to better accommodate the expected crowd of thousands.

At its peak, police estimated the crowd was about 2,500 people. Shortly after 9 p.m., the police department tweeted that the crowd was dispersing and thinning out. 

During the protest, five people were detained and released without charges, police said.

Series of community speakers

More than 20 speakers, ranging from Dallas City Council members and attorneys to religious leaders and professors, were confirmed to take the stage at the event.

Rev. Michael W. Waters, one of the first speakers of the night, said: "Now is the time to do what is right in the city of Dallas. Now is the time to bring these monuments down."

Later, Joanna Cattanach, a Democratic candidate for a state House seat, called for renaming Robert E. Lee Elementary in Dallas during the rally.  

Protest at Pioneer Plaza

The City Hall Plaza protest ended around 9:30 p.m., but there was a smaller rally at Pioneer Plaza that continued more than an hour later.

Dallas police used horses to try to break up a scuffle at Pioneer Plaza between people rallying against white supremacy and supporters of Confederate monuments, the Associated Press reported. Officers on horseback had waited as the confrontation became more intense, but they moved in to break it up around 9 p.m. 

Police moved remaining protesters outside of Pioneer Plaza and formed a line to block access to the Confederate memorial. The park closes at 10 p.m. per city ordinance. A couple hundred protesters stayed nearby.

The crowd was then pushed out farther away from the plaza by police and continued to dwindle in size. But, a small fraction stood their ground, risking arrest. Police and demonstrators wrapped up the night just before 11 p.m., KERA's Christopher Connelly reported.

Heavy police presence

Dallas police were supported by officers from Grand Prairie, Garland and the Department of Public Safety to cover the event. Several police sharp-shooters could be seen on top of buildings ahead of the rally, and helicopters could be seen flying above the scene.

In Solidarity, the organizing group, protested at Dallas' Confederate War Memorial on Aug. 10 — two days before the violence in Virginia — and it ended with a heated confrontation with a few men carrying Confederate flags.

Organizers intended for Saturday's protest to be peaceful. Here are the details.

More: The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was vandalized in an Oak Lawn park overnight.

Fate of Confederate monuments

In the past week, there's been discussion surrounding Dallas’ Confederate statues and schools named for Confederate leaders. Several Dallas leaders have called for theremoval of the city’s Confederate symbols, but Mayor Mike Rawlings wants to form a task force on the matter. 

“Look, this is simple,” Rawlings said Tuesday. “We can just remove them. The question is, how are we going to  start to heal on this issue? To do that we need to listen and talk to one another. And there’s a process to do that. So I am a big fan of moving quickly. But when we have a chance to learn from one another, I’ll take that moment.”

Rawlings said he wants City Council to take action on the Dallas' Confederate statues and other monuments by no later than Nov. 8, according to the Dallas Morning News. The four African-American City Council members agree with Rawlings on the need for a process rather than immediate removal. 

State Rep. Eric Johnson, who represents Dallas, wants a Confederate plaque near his capitol office removed immediately. Johnson on Wednesday asked the Texas State Preservation Board to remove the plaque. The board oversees Capitol grounds.
Johnson also called on Gov. Greg Abbott, along with the Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, to discuss other Confederate monuments and statues at the state Capitol.

A statement from Abbott Wednesday said removing them “won't erase our nation's past, and it doesn't advance our nation's future.” Abbott also condemned racist violence that followed last weekend's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Here’s how other Texas officials responded.

More: Learn about three key moments in Dallas’ Confederate history.

‘On many sides’

During televised remarks about a bill signing Saturday that had already been on his daily schedule, President Trump addressed the events in Charlottesville. But, he did not condemn the white nationalist and white supremacist groups that protested the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, NPR reported.

In his initial remarks, he didn’t specifically address the vehicular attack that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. James Alex Fields, Jr., a 20-year-old man from Ohio, has been charged with murder for the fatal attack.

Instead, Trump alluded to shared blame between protesters and counter protesters for failing to maintain peace in Charlottesville.

"We condemn in the strongest most possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides," Trump said.

On Monday, Trump specifically called out the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists in a statement read at the White House. But, then on Tuesday, Trump made another reversal and said "there's blame on both sides" for the violence in Charlottesville.

More: Here’s how four Texans thought he handled the crisis.

On Thursday, Trump defended the “beauty” of Confederate monuments.

NPR reported:

“President Trump stood by his heavily criticized defense of monuments commemorating the Confederacy in a series of tweets Thursday morning. Trump said removing the statues of Confederate generals meant removing ‘beauty’ — that would ‘never able to be comparably replaced’ — from American cities. As he did in a Tuesday press conference, he also attempted to equate some Confederate generals with some of the Founding Fathers.”

A&M cancels white nationalist rally

The same day things turned deadly in Charlottesville, a white nationalist announced a “white lives matter” event planned at Texas A&M University’s campus in September.

State lawmakers on Monday called on Texas A&M to block the rally. University leaders canceled the event, citing student safety.

Related coverage

Here are the most recent stories, both national and local, following the deadly unrest in Charlottesville. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.