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Dallas gets approval to remove Confederal War Memorial

In this Monday, March 4, 2019 photo, members of the Dallas Landmark Commission vote during a meeting at Dallas City Hall, to remove the Confederate War Memorial in front of the downtown convention center. The commission voted 10-5 to approve the removal of the memorial. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas commission has approved a plan to remove the city’s 123-year-old Confederate War Memorial, which officials determined was a racist relic rather than a historic landmark.

The Landmark Commission voted Monday in favor of bringing down the 65-foot (20-meter) obelisk that’s stood over Pioneer Park Cemetery since 1961, the Dallas Morning News reported. Commissioners decided the obelisk and surrounding statues of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Johnston don’t contribute to the historic character of the district.

The City Council voted to remove the memorial last month, but needed the landmark commission’s approval to take the structures down. The move came about 18 months after city officials authorized the removal of monuments dedicated to the Confederacy, beginning with the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in 2017.

The landmark commission’s blessing was a significant hurdle since many preservationists warned that removing the memorial from a designated historical area would set a dangerous precedent.

Commissioner Emily Williams said the obelisk and statues were built in 1896, which “clearly put it in the period of significance.”

But Jennifer Scripps, the city’s director of cultural affairs, argued that the memorial being installed in 1961 puts the monument outside of the park’s period of historical significance. Scripps also said removing the monument wouldn’t “adversely affect the historic character of the property.”

Donald Payton, the only black member of the Landmark Commission, said the memorial’s removal was overdue. Payton placated opponents by saying that there are still plenty of streets, building and schools that honor the Confederacy.

“If they think (this memorial is) the only thing in this city that’s a memory to the Confederate dead, we’ve got more than enough,” Payton said.

Even with the commission’s approval, the Confederate War Memorial still may not be removed anytime soon. There’s a 30-day window to appeal the case to the City Plan Commission, and the issue could eventually lead to a lawsuit.

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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