City Councilmen Roberto Treviño (D1) and William “Cruz” Shaw (D2) filed a council consideration request (CCR) together on Monday to explore the possibility of relocating the Confederate monument in Travis Park.
The councilmen want to find a more appropriate location to house the memorial, where its historical value may be preserved and integrated in an “educational context.”
Shaw, who feels optimistic that the initiative will make it to the Council floor, made relocating the statue one of his campaign promises. He outlined the process after filing the CCR for the Rivard Report over the phone Monday.
“A CCR pretty much opens up a dialogue for Council, so it has to go through a certain committee established by City Council to vet and have a discussion,” Shaw said. “Once it comes out of … the Governance Committee, it can come to the floor of city council.”
The area of relocation would be decided on by a committee made up of community members and staff from various City departments including the Department of Arts and Culture, the Office of Historic Preservation, and the Office of Military Affairs.
“San Antonio is a city rich in culture and diversity, so our public spaces should reflect that by being welcoming to everyone,” Treviño said. “The relocation of this monument is not an attempt to wash away the hard truths of our history, but rather to ensure that our diverse array of citizens and tourists can enjoy Travis Park, one of the city’s most prominent parks.”
Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) wants his constituents to be able to weigh in on the matter.
“We anticipated the filing of this CCR so we have taken to polling the residents of District 10 on where they lie on this proposal,” Perry stated in an email to the Rivard Report. “Understandably, this proposal merits a robust discussion, including the relocation site and cost of relocation. I look forward to hearing staff’s recommendations and the community’s input.”
The monument’s removal would open up the park to a larger re-imagination of its purpose and function, Treviño told the Rivard Report in a phone interview Monday. Some organizations have already expressed interest in hosting the monument should the City decide to relocate it.
“There are many things evolving for Travis Park,” Treviño said. “There [are] many things we would like to see in the revitalization of Travis Park that this effort is also going to make some room for: more public art, more amenities, and create a park that is inclusive and really representative of the evolution of the city today.
“The approach to Travis Park is more comprehensive, and not a simple replacement of one monument for another.”
The monument in Travis Park features a gray obelisk that reads “Least We Forget” and “Our Confederate Dead” down its front. An unnamed Confederate soldier stands atop the structure with the names of several Confederate soldiers carved around its base, hardly visible behind the shrubbery that surrounds them.
“Relocating the statue will be a major step forward in working to ensure our public spaces are inclusive for all, as San Antonio is a city for and by the people,” Shaw said. “Context is key when it comes to our history, so relocating this statue to a space more fitting to educate the community is a step in the right direction.”
Recent criticism and critique of Confederate monuments have led to several removals across the city, state, and nation. In July 2015, Bexar County Commissioners voted to remove several plaques that sought to memorialize Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, each plaque featuring Confederate flags.
“We are simply not going to glorify a symbol that to many people is a symbol of fear and a symbol of hate,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff had said at the time.
Yet debates continue over whether the removal of Confederate monuments, or renaming schools named after prominent Confederate figures, constitutes historical erasure or promotes more public inclusivity. Previous ideas for addressing the monument have included contextualizing the area with informational plaques or boards.
In San Antonio, several groups have demonstrations planned on just this topic.
On July 4, Black Lives Matter activists hosted a protest calling for the immediate removal of the monument in Travis Park. Counter protestors stood by dressed in garb from the 19th century, fielding questions from reporters and defending the purpose of the memorial in the park.
This Is Texas Freedom Force, a group committed to protecting Texas and Texas history’s monuments, has scheduled a protest against the proposed relocation for Aug. 12. According to a statement published on the group’s event page, the monument should remain where it’s stood since 1899 to preserve history.
“This Is Texas Freedom Force has taken the stance since our formation that [none] of Texas History should be erased,” the statement reads. “Those that do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. We believe that this monument should continue to proudly stand just like it has since 1899 without being touched.”
The group reportedly partnered with Sons of Confederate Veterans and other groups for the event. The Facebook event page encourages participants to come armed with side weapons and license to carry cards. Confederate, Texas, and American flags are encouraged, but organizers state that racist flags or iconography will not be tolerated.
SATX4, the Black Lives Matter affiliate group responsible for the July 4 protest, will hold a counter protest the same day. A statement on the event page claims that the group will not stay silent in the face of monuments that stand for white power and hate.
Both protests are to be held in Travis Park.
As the public continues its debate over whether or not it is right to remove these monuments and memorials, City Council seems prepared to take action.
“It’s not about erasing, it’s about preserving that statue, that monument, and putting it into the proper context,” Shaw said, “and assuring individuals who live here and those who come to visit, that they are accepted here in San Antonio.”