DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A temporary restraining order was granted late Wednesday afternoon preventing the Robert. E. Lee statue at Lee Park in Dallas from coming down.
Work crews had spent more than an hour beginning to take down the monument.
The plaintiff is Hiram Patterson.
U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater granted the motion for the temporary restraining order.
Patterson’s attorney, Kirk Lyons, said Patterson is a Dallas resident and taxpayer and member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.
Lyons told KRLD-AM, “We believe there’s a federal first amendment question that gives us federal jurisdiction. We filed a temporary restraining order and Judge Fitzwater signed it at 3:34 p.m. today and an hour later we served it on the minions of the city who were trying to take Lee down and apparently we stopped it at the last second.”
Here is Patterson’s original complaint:
The complaint states: “The Confederate Monument was erected to express a controversial political opinion. The City’s plan to remove the Monument in a matter of hours is an imminent and unconstitutional attempt to curtail free speech by ordaining what mute political symbols must mean. The City’s planned suppression of the Monuments’ political speech is a first step in a totalitarian move to determine authorized forms of political communication and to punish unauthorized political speech. The City has expressed no compelling interest in the abridgment of this core political speech.”
Lyons also said, “They were put there to honor the dead and the thousands of men that didn’t come back from that war that wore grey uniforms and it has nothing to do with white supremacy or Jim Crowe or any of that.”
Police officers had been stationed at the park as crews brought in a crane to remove the statue as about 25 people watched.
None appeared to protest the move.
“It’s just something that belongs here. It’s just amazing that we can just dismiss it,” said one woman who came to watch the statue’s removal. “And that’s none of the city’s business to have that opinion. They’re politicians. They don’t get that kind of free speech.”
“It was not put up to glorify Robert E. Lee. It was put up to demoralize and insult black people,” another woman countered.
Earlier in the day, the Dallas City Council voted 13 to 1 to authorize immediate removal of the statue and transport it to Hensley Field in Dallas for storage.
Dozens of people — more than 50 total — signed up to speak to the city council about this issue. Mayor Mike Rawlings allowed each of them to have one minute to speak prior to council members discussing the resolution. Those speakers continued until just after 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
“What we do is important,” Rawlings said at Wednesday’s meeting, “but how we do it is equally important.”
The newly passed resolution makes it against city policy to display Confederate monuments in public or to name public places after Confederate figures. The measure directs city staff members to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Lee Park and safely store it out of public view.
City council members Dwaine Caraway and Tenell Atkins previously said that it would be up to city manager T.C. Broadnax to determine how quickly the Robert E. Lee statue could be taken down. Broadnax had declined to discuss specifics, but said that he was already prepared for when the resolution passed.
The process of removal, that started and stopped Wednesday, is estimated to cost around $500,000 if it happens.
A task force had been appointed to investigate this issue. Several of the speakers on Wednesday said that they wanted the task force to have time to complete their work before any action was taken. One council member motioned to delay any vote until November, but that proposal failed.
The Dallas Police Department said that they were aware of Wednesday’s vote, and the potential for protests afterward. Several people have already started gathering around the Robert E. Lee statue, and a barricade has been set up around the monument in order to keep the situation from getting out of hand.
Former state representative Will Hartnett was in favor of saving the monument. “It’s a very valuable statue,” he stated. “This is history we’re talking about saving. Also, I’m a Dallas taxpayer, and I’m not excited about $1.2 million plus being burned to move these statues.”
Another group dubbed Dallas Citizens For Unity and Reconciliation was also against removing the monument. The group had suggested several compromises which included renaming Lee Park and placing a plaque to detail the historical perspective of the Robert E. Lee statue.
The organization that cares for the park, Lee Park and Arlington Hall Conservancy, said “…There are established and lengthy protocols for park naming. We are hoping that process can be expedited, and the Council will simply return the park’s moniker to Oak Lawn Park which was the original designation of the property when the park was established in the early 1900’s.”
In the meantime, it appears the barricades will stay up around Lee Park.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)