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Tag: Weatherford TX

Five white men in matching t-shirts, at least three of whom also wear military-style tactical vests and appear to be armed, stand together and exchange looks with four black men who stand across from them, wearing matching T-shirts of a different design bearing the words “#UNITY #JUSTICE #PEACE.” What are they thinking about this encounter?

What are they thinking?

By G. S. Norwood

When armed civilians take to the streets, what are they thinking?

The news out of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is bad. A 17-year-old boy, armed with an assault rifle, killed two protesters and wounded a third. I wanted to finish up this cycle of protest-related blog posts by trying to answer the question: What are they thinking?

Peaceful Protests or Armed Militia?

To get to that answer, I’ll recount a conversation I had online with two men who appeared to support the presence of heavily armed civilians at otherwise peaceful protests.

Before we get any deeper, I want to make clear that in the protests I discuss in this post, people marched peacefully in Weatherford, Texas, and other small towns around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It was broad daylight. Nobody broke windows, toppled statues, or looted places of business. Nobody announced any intention to commit such acts of destruction.

The local police were both aware of the protesters’ actions and in place to keep the peace. Conditions might be different in other parts of the country, but this is what I saw, and learned from others who were present at the protests, including law enforcement officers.

Online Rumors

After a July 25 march in Weatherford, Texas, to protest the Confederate statue on the Parker County Courthouse lawn, rumors began to spread on the internet. They whispered that the group was going to march again at 3:30 pm on Saturday, August 8.

What are they thinking? Several men ride in the back of a black pickup truck with dark-tinted windows. A large black rifle and scope is tripod-mounted on top of the truck’s cab, next to a large Confederate Battle Flag. Behind them is a limestone storefront from the square in Weatherford Texas.
Photo by Trice Jones, via Dallas Morning News.

As early as 8:30 am, Facebook commenters had spotted some guy in a heavily armored pickup truck with a trailer parked on the square, apparently waiting for the marchers. Others appeared as the day rolled on. Local law enforcement was out in force, detouring traffic away from the square, and calling in reserve officers to monitor the situation.

Right about here you might wonder, “What are they thinking will happen?”

No marchers appeared and, according to a friend within the D/FW progressive community, no march was ever planned. Perhaps it was another example of someone trolling the militia, as happened at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 4.

Asking For A Friend

I asked another friend, one of the reserve law enforcement officers called to the square that day, what the official line was on vigilante policing. That is, “private armed citizens threatening other private, possibly armed, citizens in public places.”

He said he couldn’t speak for the officials, but personally he was not a fan. His response echoed the opinion expressed by other former law enforcement officers I know.

That was the point at which one of his other Facebook friends said state statutes and the Constitution allow “protection of property, including that of others.” He said they were there to protect the statue, in case the protesters tried to pull it down.

A stone statue of a man with a goatee, dressed as a Confederate infantryman with a rifle, stands atop a stone base dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy “In honor of the United Confederate Veterans of Parker County, 1861-1865.” The statue stands on the grounds of the Parker County Courthouse in Weatherford, TX.
Photo by Tony Gutierrez, via Dallas Morning News.

While my reserve officer friend agreed that state law allows private citizens to protect property, he offered a more nuanced response. “Her question was about ‘private armed citizens maintaining order by threatening other citizens . . .’ which is NOT allowed by statute or otherwise. I doubt seriously that a citizen that tried to justify the use of force ‘protecting a statue’ would stand much of a chance in court.”

As a former law enforcement officer, who has to maintain his state law enforcement certification to continue to serve as a reserve officer, he has actually studied these questions.

Then a second person commented that, “For a lot of them, [the armed civilians] they’re not specifically protecting the statue. The BLM and Antifa are known to destroy the surrounding area of statues.”

Which isn’t significantly different than just protecting the statue, so still isn’t a legally defensible excuse for armed civilians to threaten protesters. But I wanted to understand the rationale for coming out armed.

What Are They Thinking?

So, I asked one of the commenters, “Isn’t it the job of the Weatherford Police Department and the Parker County Sheriff’s Office to prevent that kind of property destruction? Not the job of private citizens? Do you have any credible information that the WPD and PCSO are incapable of doing the job taxpayers pay them to do in an effective and professional manner? I have always found the professional law enforcement officers in Parker County to be well-trained and highly capable.”

The commenter responded, “I never said the law enforcement agencies here were incapable of doing their job. I personally think that it would serve all concerned much better if there were no armed citizens looking like they were ready for a battle on the town square. I think that there should be a good number of people prepared, however, if things got ugly, to be there quickly to back the LEO up. Some of the folks parading around down there are not helping Weatherford, Parker County, or themselves look good.”

Five white men in matching t-shirts, at least three of whom also wear military-style tactical vests and appear to be armed, stand together and exchange looks with four black men who stand across from them, wearing matching T-shirts of a different design bearing the words “#UNITY #JUSTICE #PEACE.” What are they thinking about this encounter?
Photo by Jason Janik, via Dallas Morning News.

Then I asked, “Isn’t that what reserve officers are for? Trained and TCOLE certified? They would operate in coordination with, and under the command of, WPD, PCSO, and/or DPS. Otherwise you just have a bunch of freelance cop wannabes, operating on their own ‘best judgement’ with no accountability. Seems to me that just makes the whole situation harder for the actual cops to contain.” Nobody responded to that one.

What are WE Thinking?

What are they thinking? It appears to be that they’ll take their guns and go to the protest to “uphold the law” with no real training in what the law actually says, and no grasp of the fact that cops have to let the BLM people march and speak too.

The cops can’t take sides or they undermine the rule of law for everybody. If a bunch of freelance wannabes ride into town to enforce the law as they see fit, they are just winging it on the back of their self-aggrandizing hero fantasies. They make things worse for the real cops, who are trying to do their real jobs.

George Fuller, the mayor of McKinney—another Dallas suburb about 100 miles north and east of Weatherford—put it a different way when a small militia group showed up on the town square there. “As far as those outsiders that are coming in; get on the damn bus and go home. You are not wanted here, you’re not liked here, you don’t add anything other than division, and you look silly. Go play G. I. Joe somewhere else.”

A summer of protests, marches, confusion and disinformation now promises to plunge us into an autumn of more protests, marches, confusion, disinformation, unasked-for Federal responses, and a divisive election. On The Weird Blog and on my sister Jan’s “Artdog Adventures” blog, we’ve spent much of the summer commenting and exploring the issues that have arisen. Anyone who’s read them knows where we stand.

So the themes of Jan’s posts will vary for a while. At least until something else happens to make us ask, “What are they thinking?”

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to the Dallas Morning News for all three of the images in this post. We’d also like to salute photographers Trice Jones (a local activist?), for the photo of the guy in the truck with a gun in Weatherford TX, Tony Gutierrez, for the photo of the Parker County Confederate Veterans Memorial on the courthouse grounds in Weatherford TX, and Jason Janik, Special Contributor and an AP-affiliated photographer, for the photo of typical-for-2020 militia and protesters. These appear to have been in McKinney, TX, but they represent their compatriots well.

This photo shows construction workers in hard hats using a crane to remove the John B. Castleman statue from traffic circle in the Cherokee Triangle, a Louisville KY neighborhood. Castleman fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War, but changed his mind later and fought segregation in Louisville parks. The statue was to be moved to the cemetery where Castleman was buried.

Whose history?

By Jan S. Gephardt and G.S. Norwood

They say that the winners get to decide whose history—that is, whose version of history—becomes the “official history.” But when it comes to the so-called “Lost Cause,” that isn’t necessarily so.

This photo shows a display of both US flags and the Confederate battle flag, as well as books bearing depictions of images from the “Lost Cause” pseudo-history narrative.
Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Independent.

The pro-slavery South has got to be working some kind of North American record for being persistent sore losers. They’re certainly not the only ones to hold a long-term grudge in world history, but they’ve hung in there for more than 150 years.

Who was it again, that lost the Civil War? Yes, well, we all know denial isn’t only a river in Egypt.

History and the First Amendment

Jan has written a lot of blog posts this summer inspired by the First Amendment. Since the rise of the Black Lives Matter protests, these rights have been on her heart.

Especially so, because the clashes turned violent. Violations of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly and petition were thick on the ground this summer. We can’t afford not to pay attention.

This photo shows construction workers in hard hats using a crane to remove the John B. Castleman statue from traffic circle in the Cherokee Triangle, a Louisville KY neighborhood. Castleman fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War, but changed his mind later and fought segregation in Louisville parks. The statue was to be moved to the cemetery where Castleman was buried.
Photo by Pat McDonough/Louisville Courier-Journal via CNN.

The renewed calls to take down Confederate monuments are a topic we haven’t tackled till now. For every call to remove them, others cry “you can’t erase history!” But when it comes to issues of erasure and representation, we’re not sure the sympathizers with the “Lost Cause” understand.

They don’t realize that ideologues such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy—who put up many of the monuments—were actually the ones who rewrote, and erased, important parts of our collective history.

The question of whose history we represent—and whose history we erase—is a modern-day minefield where the rules are changing almost as rapidly as the demographics of this country.

A case study in Parker County, TX

A recent episode illustrates some of the complexities of this problem. As she wrote to Jan recently, reports from Weatherford struck home for G., who lived in Parker County, Texas, from 1985 through 2010.

Whose history should be represented on the grounds of the Parker County Courthouse? This aerial photo shows a stunning view of the Courthouse’s distinctive architecture and dramatic setting in the middle of the Weatherford Texas Square.
Photo by Charles Davis Smith, FAIA, via Reddit Snapshots.

“Twenty-five years. I liked the people I met there. They were smart, kind, generous people. Quick to volunteer money and time to worthy causes, they still believed in community groups like the Lions Club and the Masonic Lodge.

“They served on boards, organized rodeos, trail rides, and scholarship funds. They gave high school kids their first jobs, and made sure seniors citizens had hot lunches, affordable housing, and a nice place to go to socialize every day. There were black and Hispanic officers on the local police force and the regional Department of Public Safety (highway patrol) roster. Everybody turned out for the annual Peach Festival.

“I won’t pretend there wasn’t racism. I am white, so I probably didn’t see as much of it as the black professionals I worked beside, but I’m sure it was there, simply because it’s everywhere—especially in states that once belonged to the Confederacy.

The monument on the Courthouse grounds

“A generic stone statue of a nameless Confederate soldier had been placed on the Parker County courthouse lawn by the United Daughters of the Confederacy sometime in the past. Not a work of fine art—just a statement about the county’s history. And apparently its present reality, too.

This photo shows the stone statue of a man in a Confederate uniform, standing and holding a rifle atop a base that reads, “In honor of the United Confederate Veterans of Parker County, 1861-1865.” The base was placed on the grounds of the Parker County Texas Courthouse by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1915, but the statue’s date and ownership are less clear.
Photo by Dreanna L. Belden/University of North Texas “Portal to Texas History.”

“I moved away from Parker County in July 2010. Almost exactly ten years later, on July 25, 2020, some local progressives decided to up their ongoing battle to remove the Confederate statue by leading a small protest march.

“Some sources say there were about 25 Black Lives Matter marchers making their way up South Main to the courthouse square in Weatherford that afternoon. Some estimates go as high as 50.

The counter-protest

All news sources agree that the crowd of counter-protestors who met them was nearly ten times bigger—anywhere from 250 to 500 people.

Counter-protesters came out in force to oppose a small group of demonstrators calling for the removal of the Confederate soldier statue on the grounds of the Courthouse in Parker County, Texas. One of their displays looked like a jail cell with effigies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in “prisoner black and white stripes” inside. Signs on it read, “Jail Transport,” “History Matters,” “All lives matter,” “Trump has opened our eyes to fake news and lies,” and “Deep state demon rats.”
Photo by Walt Burns/Spectrum News.

“The counter-protesters came with Confederate Flags. They came with signs, denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement. And they came with guns. One guy even mounted a semi-automatic assault rifle in the back of his pickup truck, military style.

“There was a lot of yelling, some pushing and shoving, and three people were arrested. One of them turned out to be a white supremacist leader from Utah. Nobody was injured, but I was appalled.

I had loved Parker County. Loved Weatherford. Made it my home for many happy years. Never in all that time did I suspect that such ignorance and hatred lived just under the surface. I still don’t know how to process it.”

It’s a lot to process. But that question of “whose history?” certainly comes down to some very personal history. As it is many places, it’s deeply personal for many in Weatherford.

Whose history is important?

Some people, like Kim Milner, who grew up in Weatherford and started a petition to keep the statue, call themselves “Those who want to keep the monuments that reflect our history rather than tear them down.”

But “That Lost Cause propaganda,” as protester Courtney Craig called it in an interview last June with CBS 11’s Jason Allen, has drowned out all other historical perspectives for decades.

Doesn’t mean those perspectives went away, though—or aren’t real.

This photo shows a crowd of the original protest group, who want the statue removed. The crowd contains both White and Black people, many of whom are wearing masks. A protester at the front of the crowd holds a sign that reads, “If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights Movement, you’re doing it right now!”
Photo by Walt Burns/Spectrum News.

Tony Crawford, one of the organizers of the Parker County protesters, told Spectrum News, “My family was lynched on that square,” he said. “I’m going about this knowing full well that after that statue comes down, it may be too dangerous for me to ever step foot in Weatherford again.”

History’s context

Whose history do we value? Whose history do we preserve? Jan and G. believe that history’s lessons are the most rich and meaningful when we remember the voices, thoughts, and memories of all who had a stake in the events of the times.

That means not glorifying any single narrative over all the others. It also means placing things in context. And sometimes that means removing them from one place to another. Along with Courtney Craig, we believe that there may be places where Confederate monuments could be displayed. Confederate cemeteries, perhaps. Museums.

We do not, however, believe that monuments placed years after the end of the Civil War and intended as propagandistic declarations of domination by “Jim Crow” racists should remain on their pedestals overshadowing public spaces. Or stay in places where justice should be upheld.

IMAGE CREDITS:

All of our image sources come from great online articles and other sources that will reward you if you’re interested in learning more. Please dig deeper to your heart’s content. Many thanks to the Milwaukee Independent for the photo of “Lost Cause” books and memorabilia.

We also want to thank photographer Pat McDonough, The Louisville Courier-Journal, and CNN for the photo of John B. Castleman’s equestrian statue being removed from Louisville’s Cherokee Triangle. There’s a video of the removal in the Louisville C-J article, and an in-depth, illustrated list of other removals in the CNN article.

We’re grateful to Charlies Davis Smith, FAIA, via Reddit Snapshots, for the amazing drone shot of the Parker County Courthouse. And we’re also indebted to Dreanna L. Belden and University of North Texas “Portal to Texas History” for the photo of the Confederate monument at the center of the Weatherford controversy.

Double thanks to Walt Burns and Spectrum News for the two photos from the Weatherford protests, both the “Jail Transport” and “You’re doing it right now!” images. They really captured the range of ideas on the march that day.

And finally, we appreciate Mitch Landrieu’s words about the place of Confederate monuments in New Orleans today, made available via the beautifully-produced video from the Atlantic and YouTube.

Many thanks to all!

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