Monday, August 31, 2015

UT Austin Removes Confederate Statue

By Luqman  Adeniyi

The Jefferson Davis statue will no longer cast a shadow on the University Texas main mall after its removal Sunday morning.

About 100 students, university staff members and other Austinites gathered to see the relocation of the controversial statue of the Confederate president. Workers wrapped the statue in plastic and cut its bolts loose from its column before lifting it onto a trailer on the back of a truck.

UT President Greg Fenves announced during the summer the statue will move to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The decision came after he received recommendations from a task force he assembled on the future of statues of Confederate veterans. The fatal shooting of nine people inside a black church in South Carolina in June sparked nationwide debate about Confederate symbols across the South.

Fenves said a statue of President Woodrow Wilson will also be moved for symmetry on the South Mall.

The removal of the Jefferson Davis statue was briefly postponed after the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a confederate heritage group, asked a judge to block the move. Last week a state district judge gave UT the right to continue.

Kirk D. Lyons, a lawyer for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he will work to have the statue put back.

“This is the beginning of legal procedure; this is the beginning of the fight," Lyons said.

Lyons said the removal of the statue has, “awakened the sleeping giant.” He said the Sons of Confederate Veterans intends to tap its supporters on social media, where it has launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised $8,805 in the past 16 days.

UT Student Body President Xavier Rotnofsky — who proposed the removal of the statue as part of his satirical campaign — said the fight is over and he is happy to see the statue being moved.

“It’s very satisfying,” Rotnofsky said. “What started off as a very far-fetched idea during the campaign — we came through with and the school year has barely started.”

He said the national conversation after the South Carolina shooting and the passion of students on UT's campus made the removal possible.

UT public health junior Amber Magee, who was on hand to see the statue come down, said Fenves’ decision to move it makes it feel like she matters on campus.

“I think that this more than anything, it is a fantastic first step for showing support for students of color, for really anything that students identify as an impairment to their personal experience, education or their personal growth," Magee said.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune. 

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