The ongoing controversy surrounding the proposed removal of the Confederate monument in Travis Park was at the center of Wednesday evening’s citizens to be heard session in City Council Chambers.
As speakers addressed Council members on the dais inside, about 10 individuals donning kevlar vests and assault rifles stood guard outside. They arrived as escorts for This Is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF) Vice President Brandon Burkhart, who addressed Councilmen Roberto Treviño (D1) and William “Cruz” Shaw (D2) – authors of the Council Consideration Request to relocate the monument – during his time to speak.
“I’m going to address you guys again, especially you two, Shaw and Treviño,” Burkhart said echoing through the chamber. “Do you guys see the problems that you’re causing? … Do you know the death threats that I’ve received?”
Burkhart, one of the lead organizers for the rally defending the monument on Saturday, criticized council members for failing to support San Antonio police officers who arrested one individual and stopped an SATX4-led street march during Saturday’s demonstrations. He reiterated that his organization was prepared to recall Treviño and Shaw, should the monument be moved.
“A lot of Texans are watching,” Burkhart told the councilmen. “We are prepared to move forward with a recall for you Treviño, you Shaw … if need be, because we are not going to stand by and let you remove a monument that represents veterans, not race.”
This is the second time that Burkhart spoke at a citizens to be heard session, but the first time that he arrived with a heavily armed security detail. Outside of the chambers with around 15 police officers standing nearby, Burkhart stated that a credible threat had been made against his life by members of the opposition.
“We have threats on my life, we have threats on a few of our members’ lives that said they were going to shoot us tonight when we came here to speak,” Burkhart said. “They’re trying to silence me, which is not going to work. We will come armed every time and we will come [with] even bigger armaments if we have to. If we have to bring a bigger security team with us, we will.”
Councilmen Treviño and Shaw told the Rivard Report after Wednesday night’s remarks that they would not be moved by intimidation tactics.
“I think it’s sad that somebody feels that they have to make an argument by instilling fear first into the conversation,” Treviño said. “I think it’s unfortunate that they would do it like that.”
“Using guns or threats of violence doesn’t solve anything,” Shaw said. “Like I said before: this is about an opportunity for the city to come together to … discuss peacefully. When you bring guns to an event, that doesn’t express peace. That’s violence, and San Antonio is better than that.”
Council’s Governance Committee will discuss whether or not to bring the councilmen’s relocation request to a full City Council vote on Sept. 13 or 20, according to Treviño.
Addressing remarks made Wednesday night both for and against removing the monument, Treviño said he would like to establish a more educational context for the monument so that people may be more informed about the history that built it.
“There are a lot of poorly informed folks,” Treviño said. “There [are] folks that think it’s Travis up on that statue. Now we hear that somebody thinks it’s Robert E. Lee. We really speak to this in terms of educational opportunity to make sure that we’re doing history justice.”
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to have a continued dialogue and to learn from each other,” Shaw said. “That’s what’s happening right now. I think both myself and Councilman Treviño are very sincere. We’re not doing anything out of hate or out of despise, we’re doing it because we care about San Antonio.”