Weatherford Mayor Paul Paschall and the city council formally requested that Parker County leaders set a date-action plan for the relocation of a Confederate statue Tuesday night.
On Saturday, hundreds protested for and against removal of the statue, which sits on the Parker County Courthouse lawn. The statue represents a Confederate soldier, and is in honor of the United Confederates of Parker County, according to its inscription.
“The right to assemble and protest peacefully, regardless of individual opinion, is a right that is granted by our Constitution and is something we fully support in the city of Weatherford. This past Saturday, July 25, the citizens and business community witnessed terrifying, disturbing and careless actions unfold at the steps of the Parker County Courthouse,” Paschall said. “The inappropriate actions that occurred are not condoned in any shape, form or fashion by the city of Weatherford, its mayor, its city council, its citizens or business community. Weatherford is a strong community that has been built on values such as quality of life, family, kindness and public safety for all citizens.
“The lawlessness that occurred Saturday night placed our local businesses, local citizens and public safety personnel at tremendous risk. The vast majority of protestors on both sides traveled to our community to address a challenge that only our county leaders have the ability to resolve.”
While the statue sits on county property, the Texas division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy own it, Paschall said.
“Responsibility to resume healthy dialogue within our community requires formal action and implementation by Parker County Judge Pat Deen and the commissioners court. In saying that, the matter associated with the statue is not as simple as it may seem. As a matter of fact, it’s actually quite complex,” Paschall said. “The statue is positioned on county property but it’s not owned by the county. The Daughters of the Confederacy own the statue and do have the contingence to move the statue as soon as possible, but at this time they don’t have the funds to relocate the statue.”
Paschall said the matter cannot be resolved by the city of Weatherford.
“Regardless of the complexity, county leaders must develop a solution and implement a plan to relocate the statue from the city of Weatherford, which happens to be in Parker County,” Paschall said. “This is not an issue that the city of Weatherford has the ability or the authority to resolve. At this time with the full support of the city council, as the mayor of Weatherford, Texas, I formally request that County Judge Pat Deen and the commissioners court publicly approve a date-certain action plan with the daughters of the confederacy so that statue can be relocated.”
At the end of the Weatherford city council meeting, residents were allowed to come forward for public comment and three addressed the council.
James Gray, a representative of the Progressives of Parker County — the group protesting the removal of the Confederate statue — read comments and threats the group has received online.
“We do not feel safe and we are not safe,” Gray said.
One comment Gray read included, “Are you a Black millennial kid looking for trouble? I think you may have found it. We are going out this week to fire 700 rounds of various caliber ammo. It will be close to Weatherford so don’t be scared, we’re just practicing for now.”
Other comments were, “Maybe somebody will put a chain around you and drag you off,” “time for retaliation, take our streets back,” “I see a high body count,” “shoot to kill,” and “Blacks are the problem.”
Additional comments included threats of violence, profanity and racial slurs.
“I know it was difficult for you to read those and we appreciate you having the courage to do it,” Paschall said to Gray.
Tony Crawford read text exchanges between himself and Weatherford Police Chief Lance Arnold on June 25 when the protests took place. Crawford started at texts messages that began at 2:43 p.m.
According to the texts, Crawford said he arrived at the courthouse at 3:10 p.m. on July 25 saying it was packed. Arnold responded asking if it was the Parker Count Patriots group or Black Lives Matter group that was at the courthouse, to which Crawford said what does it matter. At 3:28 p.m., Crawford said the Patriot’s were surrounding their group “to force confrontation” and at 3:48 p.m. said they were “surrounded by guns and people talking about shooting” them loudly. Arnold responded at 3:58 p.m. saying the department was briefing and would “have units up there in a few,” and that a live feed camera was at the location of the protest.
The group in favor of removing the Confederate statue set the protest start time as 5:30 p.m. on June 25. Crawford texted Arnold asking where the police were at 5:46 p.m.
“Where are the police, chief. This is ridiculous. We are being abused. Where are y’all,” according to Crawford’s text.
“Blocking traffic and dispersing everyone,” according to Arnold’s reply at 5:47 p.m. followed by a text from Crawford at 6:12 p.m., which reads, “Y’all abandoned us Chief. You abandoned us. You let us get dragged and attacked while you did nothing.” Arnold replied, “We saw instigators on both sides and shut it down. Didn’t abandon anything and all of our recorded video will show the same.”
Arnold said the texts read by Crawford were accurate, but not complete and that additional messages were shared to social media by Crawford.
“A couple things to note. The protest was scheduled to start at 5:30 [p.m.]. Mr. Crawford arrived and texted me from the square at 3:28 [p.m.] Two hours before the protest was to begin. We had an all personnel briefing scheduled for 4 with plans for personnel to be deployed at 5, thirty minutes before the protest was to begin,” Arnold said. “Also, it is important to note that we have attempted to set aside space in the past for both groups in the quadrant and neither the protest nor the counter protest groups have stayed in areas we have set aside. Also, both groups have commingled on the courthouse lawn numerous times before Saturday with no major issues. Finally, we don’t have control of or jurisdiction at the courthouse or the lawn.”
Parker County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Office Deputy Danie Huffman said the county courthouse and lawn are considered county property, which is within the city of Weatherford.
“We work with all local city, county and state law enforcement agencies in a cooperative effort regarding all situations, events and incidents,” Huffman said. “We absolutely had a presence there and will continue to do so in any situation. As far as we’re concerned, it doesn’t matter who’s jurisdiction it is, we will always show up and assist.
"Whose responsibility is it? It’s everybody’s. We knew this was coming so we had officers come in. We had every available officer from DPS, the sheriff’s office and from the city there. It was a cooperative effort between agencies.”
Elizabeth Louvat, 30-year Weatherford resident and local business owner, said she appreciates the city of Weatherford pressuring the county to take action before more violence occurs.
“I stand before you broken hearted and angry. Racists bigots owned our town Saturday. We are all over the news nationwide trending on Twitter and being called racist Weatherford. Weatherford’s dirty little secret has been exposed. I have lived here 30 of my 40 years and for those of you who are new here, who are unaware of the KKK rallies that happened until 1996, who are unaware that we are surrounded by hate groups, welcome to Parker County. I have seen racism here, but it does not speak for all who live here. Many of us here live a life that is inclusive and cooperative, but that is not what was seen Saturday and that is not what the country is seeing now. As you mentioned, we were not prepared,” Louvat said. “There was not equal protection. We failed to provide a safe place for our youth and minorities to have a voice while allowing hundreds of people who felt entitled to stand in the middle of our town and display hatred and violence. I thank you for pressuring the county to act on this matter before more violence occurs. Saturday, while officials waited for a threat to come from outside, they assembled for hours right in front of us.
“We must learn from this mistake, we must learn from this failure; otherwise, we will repeat the failures. The failure to protect those that want to be heard, the failure to protect the officers who attempted to control a situation too large, the failure to investigate and extinguish rumors started and provoked by hate groups, the failure to send a clear message that hatred will not be tolerated in this community. Many have said this is no longer about the statue and they are right. A wound that never properly healed has been reopened. This is about decency. Hate groups are bragging they were victorious Saturday — I have to agree. They successfully sent the message that racism is very much alive here and they will be allowed to show it. I am angry and disgusted they felt they had the right to represent our city. Don’t stop here at this meeting, please.”
The Parker County commissioners will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday to discuss and take action on issues related to the statue.