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Removal Of Robert E. Lee Statue In Lee Park Halted Hours After Dallas City Council Vote

Update, 3 p.m. Thursday: The restraining order was thrown out, allowing for the removal of the statue. Read more about the ruling here

A federal court on Wednesday afternoon temporarily halted the removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Oak Lawn's Lee Park.

The temporary restraining order came hours after the Dallas City Council approved a resolution for the statue's immediate removal.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater granted the temporary restraining order as crews were working to remove the statue. The case was brought by Hiram Patterson against Mayor Mike Rawlings and the City Council.

North Carolina-based attorney Kirk Lyons said Patterson is a Dallas resident and taxpayer and member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. Lyons has been dubbed a "white supremacist lawyer" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday. 

What happened earlier Wednesday

City Council approved a resolution 13-1 Wednesday to remove the statue. 

Council member Rickey Callahan didn't vote out of protest. He wanted the statue's removal to be put to a voter referendum, but the council voted against it. Council member Sandy Greyson was the only person who voted against the resolution.

"I believe that the Robert E. Lee statue should have been part of the process that was laid out," she said.

Rawlings formed a task force last month to discuss and recommend over the next several weeks what should ultimately be done with the Lee statue, the Confederate War Memorial in Pioneer Park Cemetery and the many other streets, parks and places in Dallas that bear names and symbols of the Confederacy.

The task force will convene at least two more public meetings for input and report findings to the Cultural Affairs Commission by Oct. 12. The commission will then make a final presentation to the City Council on Nov. 1. City Council will take any further action necessary on Nov. 8. 

“There’s no question in my mind that our city will be better tomorrow with that statue down,” Rawlings said at the meeting.

Rawlings said the urgency to remove the Lee statue was accelerated by the events in Charlottesville. He said it’s the right thing to do from a safety standpoint. 

In recent weeks, the four black council members in Dallas urged the Confederate statues' removal, and three of them requested that an item be placed on Wednesday's agenda to take down the Lee statue, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Council member Dwaine Caraway amended the resolution to more clearly state that "the display of public Confederate monuments glorifying Confederate causes [does] not promote a welcoming and inclusive community and is against the public policy of the City of Dallas."

After removal, the statue of Lee, which is not a designated city landmark, would have be kept safe in an undisclosed location as the task force continues to study the issue.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax estimates removal of the Lee statue would cost about $450,000, which would come from extra money in this year's budget. 

Scenes from Lee Park

The city was prepared Wednesday morning to remove the statue before the vote with cranes set up at Lee Park.

Tuwanna Grant of Dallas watched work crews in the afternoon spend time figuring out how exactly to remove it.

"It's an idol that some people will still think there's some power in it," she said. But we don't want this. Those days are over. We're moving forward."

Patrick Dowring was also at Lee Park, and he said he learned a lot talking with Grant.

"I think if this was going to come down they should have done it a long time ago. Why now? I get it, and I understand why they want it down," he said. 

More about the meeting

Dozens of citizens, including members of the mayor’s task force, testified before the council Wednesday, about the city’s Confederate symbols.

Some believe the removal of the monuments, names and other nods to the past would be erasing history; others believe it’s a chance to benefit the future of Dallas as an inclusive city. People on both sides of the issue included personal stories to support their arguments.

Watch Wednesday's Dallas City Council meeting

Background on the task force

Rawlings on Aug. 24 released the details of the 19-member task force. It’s chaired by consultant and United Methodist pastor Frances Waters. The first meeting was held Aug. 31.

Rawlings announced that he wanted to form the task force three days after the violent clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia last month.

Demonstrators protested on the University of Virginia’s campus over the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. After one person was killed and dozens were injured, cities and colleges around the country were prompted to address their nods to the Confederacy.