A temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the city of Dallas from removing a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Lee Park was lifted Thursday, clearing the way for the statue's removal.
A hearing was held Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater's courtroom, hours after the city filed a response to the TRO saying the plaintiff's rights were not violated, that due process was not denied and that removing the statue does not cause them due harm.
"It's a part of history, and history can be good, bad, and the ugly. Tearing it down doesn't make the ugly go away," said statue supporter Beth Biesel.
Outside the hearing, John Lee, a great-great-grandson of Gen. Lee, accused the city of violating original restrictions on the statue.
"The city of Dallas does not hold title to that statue, OK? And they have taken that statue from the citizens of Dallas," Lee said.
The judge ruled against the plaintiffs on all of their claims.
"I think the judge's ruling today recognized the legality and appropriateness of the process, and as we move forward we'll continue to remain open and transparent," Dallas City Attorney Larry Casto said.
Opponents said the statue represents Confederate issues that Dallas no longer wants publicly displayed.
"It's a clear message of white supremacy. It's time that we take the moral high ground and proclaim to all of our youth and all of our families that we're all one," said Larry James, with the Dallas non-profit group CitySquare.
It is not yet clear when the city will remove the statue, but Thursday's court ruling gives the city clear authority to do so.
"We will allow some time to get ourselves together and begin to determine what the next move will be. The statue will eventually be removed. When? We will not be able to say at this point," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said.
Mayor's Task Force Discusses Next Step for Statues, Parks
Thursday night, the Mayor's Task Force on Confederate Monuments met to discuss what's next for statues, parks and streets in Dallas that bear the names of Confederate figures.
"We're not here to destroy history. We're not here to erase history," said Task Force Chair Frances Cudjoe Waters. "We're here to make some decisions in 2017."
Among those decisions, the Task Force recommended changing the name of Robert E. Lee Park. If that recommendation is followed, the park would revert to its original placeholder name of Oak Lawn Park until a permanent name is chosen.
The task force also talked about whether Confederate Cemetery in South Dallas should be renamed.
"That isn't really glorification of what those people fought for," said Task Force member Buddy Apple. "It's a place where they are buried."
"Renaming that cemetery can preserve it while at the same time reflecting where the city can and needs to go, if we do not want to re-fight the Civil War," said Task Force member Dr. Frederick Haynes.
The Mayor's Task Force on Confederate Monuments will meet again Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. to discuss streets in Dallas named after Confederate figures.
Dallas City Council Votes to Remove Lee Statue
The City Council voted 13-1 Wednesday morning to immediately remove the statue. City crews arrived at Lee Park a short time later and began preparing the statue for removal. At about 4:30 p.m., word of the TRO had been received, and work at the site stopped.
Workers were having trouble with the job when they stopped.
"It's been installed since 1936. Who knows what to expect," Caraway said.
Hiram Patterson and members of the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed the TRO lawsuit Wednesday. Patterson later told NBC 5, "It's a historical figure. I don't believe in taking down historical figures, right or wrong, for what they did."
Gary Bray, the former commander of the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, raced to deliver the TRO and stop the statue's removal.
"The monument means a lot to me," Bray said. "Had to hit that first line of police and tell them I had an order from the judge."
The city plans to store the Lee statue at Hensley Field, the former Dallas Naval Air Station, while a Mayor's Task Force discusses options for a future location.
"It will not be destroyed," Caraway said. "It's very important that folks know, this will be stored."
Before the TRO was announced Wednesday, Lee Park and the Arlington Hall Conservancy issued a statement supporting the council's decision to move the city-owned statue while bringing up what to do with the signature corner once the statue is gone.
“The Conservancy stands ready to work with the City on the next generation for one of the most treasured parks in Dallas. This statue is owned by the City, not the Conservancy. We are entrusted with the park’s beautification and maintenance, and over twenty years, the Conservancy has helped build a solid foundation and created a true urban oasis.
“There are a couple of important issues for this transition. First, there are established and lengthy protocols for park naming. We are hoping that process can be expedited, and the Council will simply return the park’s moniker to Oak Lawn Park which was the original designation of the property when the park was established in the early 1900s. Secondly, the monument’s departure will leave a prominent, signature corner empty; it’s a vacancy we will need to address. Overall, our board is committed to the preservation of what we call a ‘mini-Arboretum’ that is close to thousands of homeowners and businesses. Finally, we do applaud the Council’s commitment to make this decision a healing cornerstone and a positive for our collective future.”
Judge Grants Temporary Restraining Order and Dallas Responds to TRO
Dallas Responds to TRO
NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff, Ben Russell and Noelle Walker contributed to this report.