By Bill O’Neil
San Antonio’s City Council gives an official “yes” to plans for removing the Monument to the Confederate War Dead from Travis Park.
“Equality means our citizens should not feel disenfranchised in and by their own public spaces based on relics from a bygone time” said Councilman Roberto Trevino, who with Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw led the effort to move the statue out of the park.
“Let’s put away the icons of oppression… let’s put away the icons of somebody being superior to others” Shaw said ahead of the Council’s vote, adding “Regardless of the culture, regardless of the historic content it’s (the monument) there to oppress.”
“With the removal of the Confederate statue, we are asserting that this monument… a monument to defend a war to defend the indefensible–located in the middle of a public park–is no longer acceptable” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.
The Mayor drew plenty of criticism in recent days over his move–as head of the City Council’s Governance Committee–to fast-track the measure to this week’s agenda.
In fact, the item didn’t appear on the agenda until Monday–at a time when many were paying very close attention to the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey.
Much of the discussion has centered around what many see as a need to take action in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“But, we can’t do knee-jerk reactions. We have processes” Councilman Clayton Perry said before casting the only “no” vote on the moving the statue.
“Think about this folks… what are the long term affects that the City can make changes in our processes and make unilateral decisions out there” Perry asked.
Councilman Greg Brockhouse found himself asking the same questions.
“I have to ask–because this is what my citizens–the residents that I serve are askign me… when does this end?” Brockhosue asked.
The argument was noted–and rejected by the Mayor.
“We listened to residents from every corner of San Antonio–through public forums like this one, through social media through letters, meetings, phone calls and things you don’t want to hear” Nirenberg said.
However, it had little impact on Perry’s fellow Council Members.
“That (the vote and move) takes this painful reminder for some people off of that pedestal that it’s on right now and it puts it in an appropriate context” Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said.
“I believe we need to eradicate institutional systems of racism and sexism that exist in he city” Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran said.
Others echoed similar thoughts.
“The passage of time always brings change both physically–and in our views and opinions of the past” Councilman John Courage said.
“While it’s important that we acknowledge (Civil War history), it’s also not something that needs to be reminded every day” Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales said.
Even Brockhouse ultimately voted in favor of moving the monument, saying getting past division starts with all of us.
“Because if it’s ever going to happen… it has to start with me” Brockhouse said.
The plan is to ultimately move the statue to more fitting location such as a museum. Until that time, the City plans to put it in storage.