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The removal of Robert E. Lee

Sep. 21, 2017
Avatar zoe allen writer.jpg2c676fc9 2a4a 48cb a392 f278501604bf

The process began too quickly to believe. I found out via Facebook around 3:45, rushed over by 4:30, and was leaving by 5:30.

An injunction was slapped on the case as the statue was being secured into the crane, and hundreds of people went home either overjoyed or disheartened.

“He might not come down today, and he might not come down tomorrow, but he will come down,” said an elderly African American woman, smiling as her eyes watered up. She was stoic in the face of Confederate sympathizers and knew that victory was inevitable.

Robert E. Lee didn’t come down that day, but he would end up being removed less than a week later.

I hadn’t even thought it possible that the City Council of Dallas would vote to remove the statue, let alone almost unanimously (the vote was 13-3). This vote, of course, happened in the wake of the events of Charlottesville and is part of a polarizing debate about Confederate monuments.

I went back twice before the statue was taken away (the day after Sid Fitzwater, the judge, ruled in favor of removing it, and once again to take in the scene), and then again on the day it was removed. I sat on the curb for two hours next to a woman in her late twenties, watching workers ceaselessly drill at the base of the statue, wondering why it took so long to topple. 

Like how long it took to end slavery in the United States? I wondered.

The first day I went out to Robert E. Lee Park, I met a nine-year-old girl who yelled at a man defending the statue.

“I don’t know why people are surprised when they hear that children are interested in politics and social justice,” she told me. “The statue needs to come down. The Confederates lost, so they should just move it.”

She was one of the more rational people there that day.

The woman I sat with on the curb the day the statue came down was fearful of a Charlottesville-esque incident. So were her loved ones: she had received anxious texts from friends telling her to be careful. She kept a wary eye out for potential dangerous situations, and I couldn’t help to be wary myself, because of Dallas’ history with firearms.

It’s no secret that angry people and guns are a violent combination. There was no better scene for this than the removal of the Lee statue, but fortunately, events stayed relatively peaceful.

Of course, people did not keep quiet. I saw a few white men draped in Confederate flags, but what amazed me the most were the pro-removal citizens (mostly people of color) who engaged in civil discourse with them on the matter. These were acts of utmost courage, and I have unparalleled respect for these people.

Every day that I went out to Robert E. Lee Park, I saw a man painting renditions of the statue. I asked a Dallas Morning News reporter if the man was doing this as an act of solidarity with the monument. The News reporter replied, “No, I don’t think so. He’s just doing it because in a few days he no longer will be able to.”

After a two-hour removal process on Thursday, the statue was finally hoisted away and driven off for safekeeping. I witnessed history by watching the removal of that statue, and I know I was on the right side of it.

I hope that other cities will choose to be on the right side of history as well.