WPD chief puts rumors to bed on Confederate statue protests

Weatherford PD, Parker County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies continue to monitor talk and rumors of upcoming protests in downtown Weatherford.

Following a large protest on July 25 in Weatherford, local law enforcement addressed rumors about upcoming events surrounding the Confederate statue on the Parker County Courthouse lawn.

Hundreds protested for and against the removal of the statue on July 25, and law enforcement received some backlash about its handling of the protests.

“There has been a lot of misinformation about our actions or inactions on July 25. We had a sound operations plan for that day, but two things occurred that threw a wrench into the plan. First, the protest groups were supposed to arrive at 5:30 [p.m.], and they showed up at 3:0 before we had even completed our briefing. Second, we did not anticipate the number of groups and individuals that arrived early to counter the protest,” Weatherford Police Chief Lance Arnold said. “We have made adjustments to our operations plans to maintain separation between opposing groups and to better control vehicle traffic and access to the area. We also have added additional resources from WPD, Parker County Sheriff's Office and Texas [Department of Public Safety].”

Arnold added that WPD and the sheriff’s office are also working in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The protest took place a few days prior to a July 30 of the Parker County commissioners court, when the owner of the Confederate statue — the Texas United Daughters of the Confederacy — asked commissioners to take action on whether to move the statue or let it remain on the courthouse lawn. The commissioners unanimously approved to allow the statue to remain on the premise.

Parker County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Deputy Danie Huffman said as of Wednesday afternoon, six arrests have been made since the July 25 protests, with several ongoing investigations. Arnold said his department has not made any arrests but has assisted the PCSO with investigations.

Many that were on the courthouse property July 25 were armed.

“Firearms are only prohibited in the room that actually houses a court or court office and is not banned in other areas of a government building or on government property,” Arnold said. “The state has no licensing scheme for long guns. Because state law governs firearms, and because it does not prohibit the carrying of a rifle or shotgun in a public place, a person is generally allowed to carry those weapons in public in Texas.”

As for any upcoming protests, Huffman said, “The Parker County Sheriff’s Office has viewed many posts on social media and will react accordingly. We cannot authenticate any information gleaned from social media.”

Arnold said the only groups his department is aware of for this weekend are the counter-protest groups that have indicated they will be there due to circulating rumors.

“Both the Parker County Progressives and Enough is Enough have indicated they have no plans to hold events in Weatherford in the near future, and we have no credible evidence that any other group plans to protest on the square this weekend,” Arnold said. “The only groups we are aware of for this weekend are the counter-protest groups that have indicated they plan on being on the square because of all the rumors out there.

"We have seen a tremendous amount of false and untruthful information about Antifa and other groups coming to Weatherford. Some social media posts even indicate they received their information about massive rallies in Weatherford from WPD. We have not told anyone that, and we have no evidence of any such activity this weekend.”

Progressives in Parker County, a local group who is for the removal of the statue, issued a statement this week on Facebook.

“Many members of our community have been unsettled by the events which occurred on July 25. On that day, a peaceful protest organized by the Parker County Progressives, gained national attention when violence broke out. Many rumors have spread since that time, attempting to link our organization with other, larger organizations outside of Parker County,” according to the statement. “It is with great concern that we feel compelled to respond to these rumors. The Parker County Progressives have not scheduled any protests, demonstrations or gatherings of any sort for the 8th of August, nor are we aware of any events scheduled for that day. Further, we are urging our members and fellow Parker County citizens to avoid the area surrounding the courthouse during this time. It is not our intention to interfere with the free speech of any individual. We make this recommendation out of concern for safety. Please support us in our efforts to make Parker County a place that we can all be proud of.”

David Lee, a member of the Parker County Patriots, said his group will be at the courthouse this weekend to protect against the possibility of protestors coming in.

Arnold said his department has not been made aware of any outside groups intending to come to Weatherford. 

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