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"Unity Rally" in Belton originally calls for Confederate monument removal

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-13 19:53:14-04

A "Unity Rally" in Belton has decided to hold off on a planned march calling for the removal of a Confederate monument in order to keep tensions from escalating.

The statue outside the Bell County Courthouse has been a piece of history for more than a century.

The monument is dedicated to Confederate soldiers and was placed in front of the Courthouse in 1916, more than 50 years after the Confederacy was defeated in the Civil War.

But some Central Texans say they want to see the county move on from what they call "a symbol of oppression."

"Slavery was the darkest part of American history. It's something that no one should be proud of," said CJ Grisham, who opposes removing the monument "Everyone should be ashamed of it. But we don't atone for that by getting rid of monuments that start that conversation."

A few blocks away at Yetti Polk Park, a group of protesters hope to change the history of the monument by holding a rally calling for Bell County officials to remove it.

"I think it gives the community something to come together to take a practical action step," said Michael Carpenter, one of the protest organizers. "That's something very practical we can come together to do."

The group had originally planned to march from the park to the courthouse, but when they learned counter-protesters were going to actively work to protect the monument, they decided not to march.

Organizers say they didn't want to give the conflict a chance to escalate.

"The whole point of us going there was to unify together and take a stand together," said Carpenter. "So, the whole point of this event was not to take sides and promote division."

This isn't the first time protesters have called for county leaders to take the statue down.

In 2017, a different group asked for the monument to be relocated, but the county never made the move.

"I think people are willing to listen now, so we have to use that and leverage that in our favor," said Carpenter.

The peaceful rally in Polk Park will continue until 8 pm.

They will have several speakers and performers, but they will not be marching to the courthouse, saying they want to keep things as peaceful as possible.