Courthouse protests

The object of a large and at times rowdy protest Saturday will be moved, according to Parker County Judge Pat Deen.

After it was established that the state chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy were the owners of the Confederate statue situated on the courthouse lawn, commissioners are expected to hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday to further discuss the topic.

“[UDC] has a location picked out, it’s being prepped for the statue,” Deen said. "Once they have the funds to move it, it is every intent of the daughters of the confederacy to move that statue. It’s illegal to use taxpayer funds to do anything with this statue. So this will be to agree and approve the statue can remain on the premise until the daughters of the confederacy — through donations, fundraising, whatever they do — has the funds to remove it from the property. It is earmarked to be moved and we’ve been informed of that in writing.”

Hundreds protested for and against the removal of the Confederate statue on the Parker County Courthouse lawn Saturday afternoon.

The groups shouted while displaying signs and flags, some carrying firearms, around and across the street from the statue. The Weatherford Police Department had officers on-site to ensure safety and prevent destruction of property.

“We conducted a joint operational command for Saturday’s protest at the Parker County Emergency Management Center along with the Parker County Sheriff’s Office. We also requested the assistance of [Texas Department of Public Safety] due to the size of the crowds we were anticipating,” WPD Deputy Chief Chris Crawford said. “Our overall goal as a joint command is to respect the rights of everyone to peacefully assemble; not to unreasonably interfere with, harass, intimidate or discriminate against persons engaged in the lawful exercise of their rights, while also preserving the peace, protecting life and preventing the destruction of property.

Several fights were caught on video, and Crawford said two arrests were made by the Parker County Sheriff’s Office.

Mitchell Earl Hardin, Jr., 44, of White Settlement and Raymond Matthew Petraska, were both arrested during the protest for disorderly conduct by the Parker County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the arrest report, Hardin charged a Black male and attempted to tackle him. The deputy on the scene broke up the physical altercation and Hardin was cited and transported to the Parker County Jail.

A Parker County Sheriff’s Office deputy observed Petraska failing to obey police orders and was poking and cursing at a Black male who was attempting to leave the area on foot, according to the arrest report. The deputy believed Petraska was intentionally causing a breach of peace in provoking the Black male into a physical altercation while he was leaving the scene. Petraska was forcefully taken into custody by a PCSO investigator after he pulled away from the deputy. Petraska was cited and transported to jail.

Deen said he didn’t have a clue who organized the protests.

Weatherford Director of Communications and Marketing Blake Rexroat said the city does not issue permits for protests. Rexroat added that the protest became an unlawful gathering when people started standing in the roadway and violence occurred.

At the June 22 commissioners court meeting, the public debated the issue of the Confederate statue. However, after ownership of the statue was questioned, no action was taken by the commissioners.

President of the Texas division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy Dorothy Norred said they did not want the statue moved at the June meeting and that the state division organization is the owner of all statues that have not been gifted to a city or county.

“What we’ve done is gone through and determined the ownership of this exhaustingly and so it’s confirmed that we don’t own the property, it’s confirmed that the [United] Daughters of the Confederacy, the state chapter, does,” Deen said.