Following nearly two hours of public comments, commissioners in Tarrant County have voted to remove a marker dedicated to Confederate war soldiers and their descendants.
The monument that was in question currently sits in front of the historic courthouse in downtown Fort Worth. It was erected in 1953 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The vote was 4 to 0 for removal, with Commissioner J.D. Johnson of Precinct 4 abstaining to vote.
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The motion to remove it was made by Commissioner Roy Brooks of Precinct 1, who urged staff to find a temporary spot to hold until “we can find an appropriate spot to display it in a historical context.”
“This is not a monument to America,” Commissioner Brooks said. “It’s a monument to those who took up arms against America.”
Following the vote Tuesday, Brooks told reporters he considered the decision to remove the marker "an act reconciliation and healing that is long overdue".
"It will set the tone for our future discussions to make substantive and systemic change," Brooks said. "We’ve got some real work to do in the criminal justice arena, in the educational arena, in the healthcare arena. COVID-19 points out dramatically the disproportionate impact that diseases of all kinds, especially COVID-19, have upon people of color. There’s an old saying that 'if white America catches a cold, black America catches pneumonia'. COVID, in many ways, showed the truth of that. I think the roots of why that happens are embedded in systemic racism across all of us."
Some of the public comments made in court were done in-person, with speakers making their stance before the commissioners. Others were done via phone, while some had their written comments sent it and read on their behalf.
Chaplain Rich Stoglin spoke before the commissioners, arguing the monument should not be removed.
He told NBC 5, he would support adding historical context or annotations to it, but was concerned history could be rewritten with removal.
"This county is strong enough to stand up and acknowledge its past and plan its future," Stoglin said. “This monument is not to be celebrated but serves as a reminder of the pain and agony it caused. Today, our most clear and imminent danger is not a historical monument from our past but crack houses in many neighborhoods that are our present. Remove them first."
Most of the comments shared by county residents were in support of removal, including those from Sarah Powers of Fort Worth.
"I’m heartbroken by our continued reluctance to truly see the ideas that were depicted on these pieces of stone for what they really are -- a romanticized message about the racist history of the south, and that it’s more important than the past and present pain of the people here today," Powers told commissioners.
Judge Whitley clarified the vote of removing the monument does not mean it will be destroyed. Instead, it would be moved elsewhere that is not public property in Tarrant County.
Whitley acknowledged national outcry over the death of George Floyd made an impact on how fast the county made a final decision.
"I have to admit. I had not really gone back and studied it the way that I should have, and I was so distressed about what happened to Mr. Floyd that as this began to come up again, I need to look a little deeper. I need to look past the words and talk with folks," Whitley said. "What I understood, and what I heard was from both sides, but what I know to be true is that many people in this county – that [monument] represented racism."
Whitley added he personally felt the monument should be "in some place else where it can be a part of history but history that is explained".
"There were folks on both sides and then there were folks in the middle. As much as one side thought it was racist, there were folks who meant it to be racist, but there were also folks who meant it to be a memorial," he said. "At this point in time, I think, we’ll remove it from the courthouse grounds. We’ll probably crate it up and just explore into the future of what we may or not do with it."
It is unclear exactly when it could be removed. The estimated cost is not known at this time, but Whitley said it will come with one.
NBC 5 reached out to the United Daughters of the Confederacy organization on Tuesday via email for comment, but we have not heard back as of this writing.