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Confederate statue debate amid national racism discussion

Confederate statue debate amid national racism discussion

Willie Hudspeth, Denton County's NAACP president, speaks to an activist in this photo from July 2015.

Confederate statue debate amid national racism discussion
July 25
00:23 2015

Julian Gill | Staff Writer


Students and local activists gathered Saturday evening around the Confederate soldier monument on the Denton Square to protest racist connotations behind the statue.

Community members arrived with signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice for Sandra Bland” and “Your Heritage is Hate,” conveying their beliefs on Confederate ideologies at a time when the nation is engaged in renewed debate on racism.

Groups supporting Second Amendment rights were expected to make an appearance, prompting law enforcement officials to be on hand. Unlike days earlier, citizens with weapons did not show up, and only minor disputes were observed among demonstrators debating certain points related to the Confederacy and the monument itself.

Confederate relics have come under much scrutiny after a man allegedly killed nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, for racially charged reasons, and was photographed holding Confederate flags.


Remnants of red spray paint and the words “This is racist” linger on the Confederate Soldiers statue on the Square. Julian Gill | Staff Writer   

Since vandals spray-painted “This Is Racist” on the statue Monday, it has served as a centerpiece for debate in Denton regarding the racial landscape throughout the United States.

Denton County NAACP President Willie Hudspeth, who protested the placement of the statue the day it was vandalized, addressed a crowd of about 50 people Saturday.

“I’m one person who finally sees, you just be nice, you obey the rules and you learn how to fight correctly,” he said.

Hudspeth has protested the statue since 2000, calling for Denton County officials to move it to a more historical location.

He asked his fellow protesters to voice their opinions in front of county commissioners Tuesday as they hold their weekly meeting in the Courthouse on the Square. The meetings are conducted to discuss  issues, and members of the community are given four minutes to speak.

Members of UNT’s Feminist Majority Leadership Association were at the rally to protest the general culture of racism in the United States. The group’s co-president David Montalco said he would rather see the statue completely destroyed than moved to an alternative location. “My thing is that the statue, no matter what, will represent a memorial to commemorate a group that broke away form this country because they wanted to uphold a system of chattel slavery,” he said. Scott Campbell, commissioner of the Historic Landmark Commission, argued that the community should not disregard the statue’s historical significance. “This is the monument to the boys, and they were boys back then, who fought in the war,” Campbell told demonstrators. “I would imagine that 99 percent were just fighting because they had to be there. I imagine the majority of them didn’t even own slaves.”  

Earlier: Activists from all sides debate Confederate statue

There was a small gun rights rally at the Confederate soldier statue on the Denton Square Tuesday evening, the same day Denton County authorities released security camera footage that purports two suspects spray painting “This Is Racist” on the statue Monday morning.

About five gun-toting activists were at the monument in response to a Monday night display where a Denton resident showed up with an AR-15 to counter a 69-year-old activist who was challenging the placement of the Confederate statue.

“We’re out here to protest the sickening behavior of yesterday,” said Ian McDougal, Lake Dallas resident openly carrying a loaded AR-15, concealed revolver and “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. “It’s ruining the charm of this town.”

Texas does not restrict the open carry of long-barreled firearms for anyone over the age of 18. And Gov. Greg Abbott signed the open carry bill in June, which allows citizens with a gun license to openly carry a handgun in public.

McDougal said his Jeep has holsters for his rifle so he can keep it with him while away from home.

“One time I walked into Target with it and no one batted an eye,” McDougal said.

A Denton Police officer later approached the group and told them he was responding to calls in the area. The officer told the caller that what the activists were doing was legal.

Denton resident Brandon Christwell, 23, did not think anyone should be allowed to carry guns in an area with bars.

“I disagree with carrying any sort of gun,” Christwell said. “If you can’t carry a gun into a bar why should you be able to carry them in an area with tons of bars. Someone could get hurt.”

Man brings AR-15 to protest after vandals deface Confederate soldier statue 

Tensions soared Monday when vandals defaced the Confederate soldier statue on the Denton Square, prompting a small protest later involving a man carrying an AR-15.

There were no injuries and no shots fired, but police are still looking for three suspects security camera footage showed spray painting “This Is Racist” across the top of the statue earlier Monday morning.

Sandi Brackeen, spokeswoman for Denton County Sheriff’s Office, said an investigation is ongoing and they do not have an official statement regarding the incident.

By mid-afternoon, county employees had washed most of the paint off the statue, but red stains could still be seen throughout the day.

“I don’t know how anyone could do this,” said Michael Upchurch, commander of Denton’s Sons of Confederate Affairs. “This was just here to acknowledge the Denton men who fought in the Civil War and that’s it.”

Denton resident Willie Hudspeth, 69, showed up to the statue at about 6 p.m. with a wagon full of 10 cardboard signs that read “Please move the statue to a confederate museum.”

He had no problem with the statue itself because of its historical significance, but said he would like to see it moved to a more appropriate location.

“It’s like everyone can see it, like it’s something we are all a part of,” Hudspeth said. “But I hate walking under this thing. It reminds me of what they did to my father’s father.”

Stephen Passariello, a Denton resident armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, started a verbal altercation with Hudspeth.

“Why is this just now a big deal?” Passariello said. “If it’s such a big deal why weren’t you out here months ago?”

Hudspeth responded by saying he has protested under the monument more than 50 times since 2000. Hudspeth has asked Denton County officials several times to move it closer toward the courthouse where it can be easily viewed as a historic monument.

Hudspeth called police because he felt Passariello should not have had the assault rifle.

Both Denton and Denton County police examined the rifle, which Passareillo said was loaded and licensed.

“I was encouraged to open carry with a sling, although it wasn’t required,” Passareillo said. “I was told that I can stay, but they would appreciate it if I got my sling so people wouldn’t feel so threatened.”

Passariello added that the officers were worried someone could easily steal the rifle because it was not secured to his body. He immediately obliged the officers and left area.

Texas does not restrict the open carry of long-barreled firearms for anyone over the age of 18. And Gov. Greg Abbott signed the open carry bill in June, which allows citizens with a gun license to openly carry a concealed handgun in public.

But the presence of Passareillo’s rifle that evening made some people uneasy.

“I asked him if he was military and he said no, so I got a little worried,” said Adam Rinkleff, a Denton resident who was there speaking with Hudspeth. “I didn’t know if the safety was on or if he could accidentally shoot someone.”

Despite the short altercation and a few jeers from passing cars, the protest remained peaceful throughout the evening.

“We’ve agreed on a lot of things tonight,” Rinkleff said. “Even though I don’t have a problem with the statue at all, I still think it could be improved to not offend so many people.”

Editor’s Note: A correction has been made to this story. We labeled Adam Rinkleff as a counter-protestor, but he informed us that he was there to speak with Willie Hudspeth, who was at the statue to protest. 

Featured Image: Denton County NAACP President Willie Hudspeth defends his beliefs with a Denton resident beneath the Confederate soldier statue at the Denton Square Saturday evening. Hudspeth urged demonstrators to contact county commissioners about the statue, and reinforced racial cooperation. Dalton LaFerney | News Editor

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  1. Jackie
    Jackie August 12, 15:39

    I want the issue to be put on every towns ballot whenever the next election comes up and let the people of each town decide how to handle confederate staues. Those statues usually represent Confederate soldiers who fought in the war from those communities so its personal to them. This is a peoples issue and not a politicians issue!! Power to the people not politicians! We have a voting system in place lets use it and I imagine the turnout would really increase!!!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jackie
    Jackie August 12, 15:42

    I want to see citizens vote on this issue. I want it back in the peoples hands and out of the politicians hands! Put it on every city ballot or the state ballot!

    Reply to this comment

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