DALLAS - About 100 people showed up for the rally Saturday at Lee Park, protesting the removal of the massive statue to Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The crowd was much less than the 300 that organizers had told police they expected.
Protestors carried Texas flags and Confederate battle flags. Some carried signs calling for Mayor Mike Rawlings to be removed from office.
Heavily armed members of Texas Freedom Force, the group that organized the protest, manned the perimeter. Uniformed officers kept a watchful eye. Plainclothes police officers mingled in the crowd.
The people that did come were clearly passionate about the statue's removal. The crowded cheered when a man stood atop the statue waving a Texas Flag.
“We're here standing up for the south, what's left of it,” said one man, who declined to give his name. “There's still a lot of Southerners that believe in this stuff.”
The rally was mostly peaceful except for one counter-protestor in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. Al Woolum angered protestors when he marched up to the base of the statue and waved a white flag saying it represented the surrender of the Confederacy.
“You’re not even supposed to be allowed in here,” one protestor told him. “I’m not a troublemaker,” he replied. “I’m just stating my opinion. Robert E. Lee was a traitor.”
A few minutes later, the situation turned violent when heated words turned into a shoving match. Several statue supporters pushed Woolum up against a vehicle. Both uniformed and plainclothes officers intervened, escorting Woolum away in handcuffs.
“I’m not going,” he told the officers.
“Yes, you are,” an officer told him.
“He hit me first,” Woolum told officers.
Woolum, a Navy veteran, then agreed that he would go peacefully, telling the officers that he had a bad shoulder and was diabetic.
The crowd cheered as he was led away in handcuffs. He was arrested for disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a ticket.
Erich Schoenkopf, who was riding by on his bike, said the statue supporters were the aggressors. “I saw him getting pushed and him pushing back,” he said.
At the beginning of the rally, supporters placed two funeral arrangements on top of the base, where the statue once stood as they played the song, “Amazing Grace.”
Speakers talked about the city council's decision to remove the statue. Several attendees said they were furious that the council had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so.
“To remove our history has got to be the absolute dumbest thing that you could do,” said Robert Beverly, president of the Texas Freedom Force. “You’re not going to California my Texas.”
Beverly also identified himself as the commander officer of the Texas State Militia.
“RL Thornton was a known KKK leader in Dallas, and he’s got highways named after him,” Beverly said. “He was the mayor back in the 50s. How can you allow a statue to stand like that and you take this one away?”
But there were people of all colors opposed to the statue's removal.
“Remove all the relics, monument and statutes, but it changes nothing,” said Jeffrey Myers, a black pastor who spoke at the rally. “It does not change the past.”
Tensions are sure to continue. The task force appointed by the mayor continues to meet trying to decide what to do with the rest of the memorials to the Confederacy in Dallas.
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