Several dozen people, many of them armed with semi-automatic rifles, gathered around the Confederate statue on the southeast corner of De Leon Plaza Tuesday afternoon as local residents debated whether the statue should be removed during a virtual Victoria City Council meeting.

As the crowd stood on De Leon Plaza, a debate lasting more than two hours took place during the Victoria City Council meeting on Zoom. More than 25 people urged city leaders to either keep the monument as it stands or remove it from the public square during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Those assembled at the plaza expressed frustration with “cancel culture” and condemned the protests that swept the country after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd.

Some came from hours away, including Kristi Mehrens, 50, of Rosharon in Brazoria County. Mehrens said she heard that the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who donated the statue to the city in 1912, were trying to preserve the statue and wanted to offer her support.

“It’s our freedom of speech that we’re trying to protect,” she said. “We’re people trying to protect our constitutional freedoms.”

Shawn Summers, who drove down from College Station, said he has attended rallies at other statues around the state, including Texas A&M’s Sul Ross statue. He said those protesting George Floyd’s death are trying to incite violence and division rather than protest police brutality.

“That ain’t what this is about,” he said. “This is about people wanting to destroy property and burn buildings.”

Brehaven Garner, 20, of Victoria, said she was shocked to see an armed crowd gathered on DeLeon Plaza as she stood on the sidewalk across the street. Garner attended the Black Lives Matter protest in Victoria in early June, which drew nearly 800 protesters and was peaceful.

“It was just a peaceful protest. They shouldn’t be concerned,” Garner said. “I’ve never seen Victoria act like this.”

During the council meeting, the majority of those who spoke called on city leaders to leave the Confederate monument in its place.

Among those who urged the council members to do the opposite was Kim Pickens, who said that for more than 100 years, the statue has been “a reminder of Confederate values and ideologies.” There is “no ambiguity” as to why the statue was erected in downtown Victoria, she said. “It sent a message that white people will always be considered better than people of color, which included African and Native American peoples.”

Pickens suggested moving the monument to Evergreen Cemetery, where more than 130 Confederate soldiers are buried, and leaving the space that the monument occupies empty to serve as a reminder that the community rejects hate and ignorance and is welcoming to all.

“We must address our past so it can be reconciled and a new way forged forward that promotes unity and diversity,” she said.

Linda Henry, on the other hand, said in all the years the monument has been a part of Victoria standing tall in the plaza, “it’s not bothered anybody.”

“This statue does not mean anyone wants to see slavery again; no one does,” she said. “I just think this is a crazy idea to remove it... we want Victoria to remain Victoria.”

Others, including Michelle Adams, agreed.

“I’m here to stand in defense, not just of this monument but every Confederate monument in the state of Texas that is still left standing,” she said. “This is not just a monument, this is our history.”

Victoria County Commissioner Clint Ives said Victoria County would “gladly” receive or purchase the monument from the city and “move it right across the street to the courthouse.”

University of Houston-Victoria history professor Joseph Locke said removal of the statue from the plaza would not “erase history” as some residents have claimed. Recognizing Victoria’s “fascinating” history is important, but can be done while removing the statute from the public square.

“We need more statues, we need more monuments, we need more memorials, but not this one,” he said. “It doesn’t belong in a public space. It belongs instead in a museum where it can be contextualized as the artifact of history that it is, not history itself.”

Because the discussion took place during the public comment portion of the meeting, the City Council did not respond to any comments or discuss the topic.

Rather than leaving a decision up to city officials at all, two members of the public, including Victoria County Republican Party Chairman Bill Pozzi, urged the council to let residents be the ones to make a decision about the monument by putting the matter on the next city election.

“Let the people answer this,” Pozzi said. “We’ll have an election, it’ll be decided and it’ll take the heat off the City Council and off the mayor. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter

Mark Rosenberg reports on rural community life for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at mrosenberg@vicad.com or 361-574-1264 or on Twitter at @markrosenberg32. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to VictoriaAdvocate.com/report.

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Mark Rosenberg writes about rural community life for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. He covers Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, and Refugio counties. Questions or tips? Contact: mrosenberg@vicad.com or call 361-574-1264.

(34) comments

Daniel Martin

After reading the comments and having a fairly good grasp of our history I think there is a solution. Leave the statue where it is and add a white flag. Maybe shroud it in black. The Confederate states no longer exist. Lee surrendered. The South lost. It was a bad idea turned rancid. The CSA is dead. Gone. R.I.P.

Willie Ellis

African American citizens of Victoria have had to bare the weight of this confederate statue for more than 100 years.

Placing the decision to remove or not to remove the confederate statue on an election ballot would require every voter to make this race based choice. A: If you do agree with and support the ideas of slavery and white supremacy check this box to keep the confederate statue, or B: If you don’t agree with the ideas of slavery and white supremacy check this box to remove the confederate statue.

The city council has a duty and responsibility to cast votes and make decisions that affect all citizens including the 6% African Americans who live in Victoria.

By casting a vote, each city council member would have personal accountability to either stand on the wrong side of history or to stand on the right side of history.

Glenn Wilson

Kim - "“We must address our past so it can be reconciled and a new way forged forward that promotes unity and diversity,” she said." -- Meaning the history of the past needs to be remodeled so that it matches what's acceptable now? BTW, unity and diversity are mutually exclusive. Unity means together, diversity means separate.

Paul Mondolfi

Really, you have to parade your guns to make up for your insecurities.

You have some real issues!

Daniel Lopez

Kim Pickens,  you state; ‘The Last Stand’ is meant to make a point, a statue that says White people are superior in the square.” Your understanding of the statue’s title “immutable they stand,” suggests to you a perpetual commitment to the Confederacy’s ideals. However, To myself, the meaning of “The Last Stand’ is meant to make a point”.. that Slavery will forever be ended. The wording “immutable they stand”, meaning to me is...(Immutable….unchanging over time or unable to be changed). Is that no matter what is done now, History will remain “unchanging over time or unable to be changed”. It is hard for me to believe that here in 2020, people believe that a statue represents “White people are superior” to others and ignore the numerous other Confederate reminders in our city.

Alonzo Salazar

Tim Foerster, This Democrats nonsense is nothing more than a fake narrative like your Lost Cause. You well know that virtually every Texas Republican family was once Democrat until John Tower was elected. Republican politicians beginning with Tower down to Rick Perry and Greg Abbott were Democrats. You are not President Lincoln’s Republican Party, that party wouldn’t fly a Rebel Flag or worship Confederate traitors. You are a Trump Republican, yesteryear’s Democrat peddling a fake Confederate history. Much like that Lost Cause “historian” your organization recently had at Victoria College peddling this nonsense about The Civil War not being about slavery. And I’m sure you know who I’m talking about. You had the Victoria Advocate cover the event. This eyesore needs to be removed off our plaza and placed on your group’s property.

Tim Foerster

Democrats wanting to tear down the statue of a Democrat, placed there by Democrats, who were fighting for Democrats...

Mike Gomez

Wrong...Conservative Democrats put up that statue and now conservative Republicans want it to remain.....

Mike Gomez

Final point on that, today the house of representatives controlled by Democrats voted to remove the Confederate statues from the White House. I bet the Republican Senate will oppose

Mary Ann Wenske

Exactly, Tim Foerster. This is why we need to REMEMBER our history and not tear it down.

Alonzo Salazar

The lost Cause is a fake history and none of us is calling for it to be torn down. Unlike when it was erected, we now have say so-over these issues.

Daniel Lopez

I repeat, how can you in good faith single out one Monument and say it has detrimental effect on you and has hinder your normal daily life...BUT, disregard the "other" numerous Confederate related items in Victoria. The Historical Confederacy homes, The Nave Museum, the Confederate soldiers buried in our cemetery. If the people offended by these Confederacy images to the point it has altered or hindered your way of life, I strongly suggest you relocate and move away from the State of Texas. I will do my part and help you achieve/make your life better by donating 2 hours of my time to help you relocate away from this Confederate State.

Rick Dockery

Last I checked we are part of the United States. I’m assuming you mean “was” a confederate state. The examples of other confederate era entities are privately owned, not maintained by the tax payers.

Daniel Lopez

So, I go and buy the Confederate monument, erect the Monument in my front lawn, it will no longer be considered Racist or a controversial terrorizing narrative because it is privately owned. I stand corrected, "was a confederate state. Although, still identified as "Texas was the 7th Confederate State, and joined the Confederacy on the 2nd of March, 1861 after declaring secession on the 1st of February".

Alonzo Salazar

Daniel, what I think or anyone thinks of your private property is irrelevant.

Rick Dockery

Put whatever you want on your front yard. It’s still not cool, but it’s yours, on your property and protected under your right to have it. Public vs Private ownership. No problem.

Alonzo Salazar

Location, location, location and tax dollars

Daniel Martin

Just to be clear, there are NO Confederate states. Check your time machine, this is 2020 and the Confederacy is dead. Gone. Does not exist.

Glen or Janice Ullman

First and foremost, one man is responsible , with his continuing political incitement during a pandemic. Gun toting protesters In the courthouse square? I guess they were scared peaceful protesters were going to attack them, and our local law could/would not protect them? Do not be duped by Trump’s distractions from his dismal performance. Leave the statue for now, let’s remove Trump and stop this virus....Glen Ullman

Matilda Jane

BLM does not represent anyone except antifa . It is the Marxist Communist Chines Party in the flesh, CCP. This is a Coupe D eta folks. I have nothing against the Chines people but I do not believe in the dictates and actions of the CCP.

Mike Gomez

Matilda Jane? Is that your real name or something you can hide behind to post your ad hominem? This week China and the Chinese people can be lumped in with BLM to be the RW boogieman.

Mike Gomez

Is Commissioner Clint Ives the official spokesman for the county? He is giving his permission to move the statue to county property. What is it about public land that he doesn't understand? ......Take the heat off city council and the mayor? Isn't that's why we elected them as opposed to mob rule or whoever has the most votes? If I know anything about our mayor, he doesn't run away from responsibility. He showed that on his first week in office. The city council approved in 1912 they can reaffirm or not in 2020. That's democracy at work.

Matilda Jane

Ignoring the Chines Communist Party who have declared war against you doesn’t make the war or go away. #Truth

Matilda Jane

This display is a system of control and submission to break down the will of the people. They has infiltrated every single community in the world, every single town and setting. This is a battle bused into us that is being fought not only in our towns but all over the world to imposing submission on us all. This poses a serious life and health risk to us all. They are trying to scramble our minds by manipulating us into instruments of fear. We are now aware of what is taking place and how it is directly affecting all of our lives. There are people scared to death to leave the house to go to the store or walk the dog. The is not the world I want to live in. There are hundreds of people all over the country all over the world that are in the same situation, scared to go out scared to look anyone in the eye, scared to death. If we don't stand up really fast this country is going to go down the toilet really fast. If this takes hold we will not be able to escape from it.

Rick Dockery

Mr. Pozzi-A vote? Gee, I wonder how that’s gonna turn out in this town? Lol

Rick Dockery

You can take the statue down but can’t erase bigotry. Meanwhile, does Germany have a chapter of the United Daughters of the Third Reich? Just curious. Also, why the guns? I’m all for guns, but WTH?

Alonzo Salazar

Victoria’s Jim Crow segregationist erected this cheap eyesore. These people need to find a place for it on private property.

Rick Dockery

Remember our taxes pay for this garbage to be maintained.

Daniel Lopez

"Cheap eyesore"...The beautiful city of Victoria, Texas, is home to an impressive and distinctive Confederate Monument. Coppini made this piece – the only one of its kind. This unique work of art stands in De Leon Plaza.

Grace Butler

When there was a BLM protest in Victoria, everyone cried that people from out of town were coming to inflate the numbers, that there would be guns and weapons.

When out-of-towners come to protest the opposite with fully displayed firearms, suddenly that's okay? I'm not pleased with this protest but by god, the racism in the community to assume one is peaceful by default and the other isn't is just ridiculous.

Daniel Martin

Jim Crow is alive.

Steve Fiedler

Regarding the statue, save dont cave.

KIM PICKENS

To preserve the historical context of the statue, our sugges6is to move it to the cemetery where Confederate soldiers are buried. Why can't that be a viable option?

Mary Ann Wenske

Kim Pickens, it would only be a matter of time, and then some would want it moved again. Confederate statues in cemeteries elsewhere have been targeted. I think we should dedicate our energy to constructive actions, such as present-day furtherance of education.

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