City and county officials gathered with local civil rights activists at Travis Park on Saturday morning to call for the removal of the park’s Confederate monument. About ten people showed up for the press conference, none of which were in favor of keeping the statue.
The Confederate monument with a plaque that reads “Our Confederate Dead,” symbolizes the history of the South for some and a reminder of hundreds of years of racism for others.
To County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4), the flag represents hate. Calvert stood in front of the Confederate monument, with an American flag in hand, and told the crowd that San Antonians should praise symbols of unity, like the nation’s flag, instead of symbols of division, like Confederate monuments.
“We need to move in a direction of praising the American flag for the unity and enfranchisement of all people and praising our heroes who kept our union together,” he said.
Mario Salas, a member of the San Antonio Coalition for Civil and Human Rights, said the monument shouldn’t be in a public park, that it belongs in a museum because statue represents slavery. He said those people who believe the American Civil War was fought for state’s rights instead of slavery are “at odds with reality.”
“The statue is a despicable reminder of the hatred generated by the Confederate states,” Salas said.
Calvert said the Commissioner’s Court meeting on Tuesday morning will address Confederate monuments in San Antonio and move forward with their removal and museum placement. He said he wants a plaque placed underneath each monument that reads, “Never Again.”
“Never again do we want to go back to a situation where people are enslaved. Never again do we want to have the notion that only the white race our government is created for. Never again do we want to have it only for white men, for in fact women were excluded. Never again will go back to an era when Hispanics were discriminated against, and Native Americans,” Calvert said.
When it comes to education, Calvert said, teachers and professors should refer to primary sources instead of the state-issued textbooks that downplay the role of slavery in the Civil War and the history of Texas.
“I (encourage) teachers to teach from primary sources rather than a book created by political operatives who have their own hidden motives,” he said.
Both Salas and Calvert said the Sons of Confederate Veterans members are misinformed individuals whose beliefs lead to tragedies like the racially motivated killings of nine unarmed African-Americans in a South Carolina church.
“These Confederates are totally confused and I feel sorry for some of them because they have been brainwashed by this racist propaganda,” Salas said about the Sons of Confederate Veterans members.
Salas said the monument was erected after the death of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina said the Travis Park monument is a symbol of racism and hate. He said it is monuments like these that led to the South Carolina massacre.
“This symbol of racism and hate could lead to the same scenario in a Hispanic church on the Southside (or) in a Jewish synagogue,” Medina said.
Medina said the Confederate monument should be replaced by a statue that represents America’s progression.
“Lets erect monuments to glorify those that have fought for what America is today and America will be tomorrow,” he said.
Councilmember Alan Warrick II (D2) sent a letter to Mayor Ivy Taylor earlier this month requesting that a task force be formed to review the Confederate monuments and flags located in public places throughout the city. Mayor Taylor responded, noting that removing Confederate symbols will not solve the underlying cause of racism, that City staff has been directed to “identify any monuments connected with Confederate history or symbolism” and produce a report for her review and consideration of “opportunities for expanding interpretation at these sites.”
Councilmember Rey Saldaña (D4), who attended the protest on Saturday, said he backs Warrick’s stance on the issue.
“I think this has a purpose for reminding us of our history and that history should belong in places like our textbooks and our museums, not in our publicly funded parks,” Saldaña said.
*Featured/top image: Mario Salas, a member of the San Antonio Coalition for Civil and Human Rights, spoke during the protest. Photo by Joan Vinson.