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Denton activist leads protest against Confederate statue on the Square

Denton activist leads protest against Confederate statue on the Square

In front of the confederate soldier monument on the Denton square, protestors make their signs against the stone memorial visible. The protest included picketing and speaches, helping to peacefully take down this controversial piece of history. PC: Katie Jenkins

Denton activist leads protest against Confederate statue on the Square
August 22
11:18 2017

Nearly 80 people joined activist Willie Hudspeth Sunday evening to protest a Confederate monument on the Denton Square.

Hudspeth, 71, has been protesting the Confederate monument on the Square nearly every Sunday for the past eighteen years. Since June of 1999, Hudspeth has opposed the existence of the statue, which he called offensive.

While Hudspeth’s initial goal was to have the statue removed, he eventually chose to instead pursue the erection of more diverse monuments on the square.

Hudspeth said he was surprised by the high turnout for the protest, announcing to the crowd that the Sunday before there had only been two people present. He attributed the rise in attendance to the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Heather Heyer, 32, was killed after a white nationalist rally on August 12.

“We have a movement now, and I think this time we’ll be successful,” Hudspeth said. “This will get them to put the statue on the [Denton County Commissioner’s Court] agenda, mark my words.”

There was police presence on the Square in preparation for larger attendance at the protest. No hostility occurred, other than a few vehicles which circled the Courthouse lawn and attempted to drown out speakers at the event. Denton Police Department public information officer Bryan Cose said the protesters were “peaceful and respectful.”

Protesters included many from the surrounding student communities at UNT and Texas Woman’s University, as well as Denton residents. Not all attendees were aware of Hudspeth’s goal to add monuments to the Square instead of removing the current Confederate statue, such as UNT information sciences graduate student Melissa Freiley .

Willie Hudspeth speaks to the group of protestors about the proper methods for getting rid of the confederate memorial on the square. Hudspeth shared that a petition to the county commissioner is the way to get rid of the contoversial monument. Katie Jenkins

“I’m in support of them taking down the Confederate monument that’s on the Square,” Freiley said. “It’s glorifying a part of our history that wasn’t good, and I believe it can alienate people.”

Rachelle Foster, a psychology graduate student at TWU, said she supported Hudspeth’s cause because the Square lacks any acknowledgement to the history of multiple groups including African Americans.

“We need to recognize our history,” Foster said. “This statue is one part of our history, not the entire history of the town.”

While Hudspeth has been attempting to convince the Denton County Commissioners to place the monument on their agenda, his goal to add monuments to the Square differ from most of the protesters.

When Hudspeth asked the crowd present on Sunday evening if they wanted the statue removed, nearly all attendees raised their hands. One person opposed the removal of the statue.

The event included an open mic portion during which Hudspeth invited anyone who wished to speak to step up, including those who had differing viewpoints. The open mic speakers held that the monument should be wholly removed, and the crowd applauded their views.

Paxton Swisher, UNT criminal justice senior and vice president of the North Texas College Democrats, took advantage of the open mic to emphasize avenues the public could use to enter the discussion or urge action. Swisher asked protesters to attend the Denton County Commissioner’s Court and offer their opinions or to write letters to the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

“It would be very difficult to get this monument removed,” Swisher said.

The Denton County Courthouse Museum includes the surrounding lawns, which means the monument is already on museum grounds. Therefore, any changes to the monument must be approved by the THC. The Denton County Commissioners may also propose changes.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the Confederate monument on the Square in 1918, 53 years after the conclusion of the Civil War. The Denton County Commissioner’s Court added a plaque on the lawn near the monument in 2010 in response to Hudspeth’s protests and to add context to the monument.

Citizens who wish to offer their thoughts on the monument may do so during the public comment section at the beginning of Denton County Commissioner’s Court meetings at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays. The Commissioners Courtroom is located on the second floor of the Courthouse at 110 West Hickory Street, Denton.

Hudspeth will be running for county judge in the upcoming election.

Featured Image: In front of the confederate soldier monument on the Denton square, protestors make their signs against the stone memorial visible. The protest included picketing and speeches. Katie Jenkins

About Author

Sarah Sarder

Sarah Sarder

Sarah Sarder is the Senior News Writer for the North Texas Daily.

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1 Comment

  1. Sissy
    Sissy August 22, 19:23

    I. It’s time for a change. I personally commend MY PEOPLE of Denton County for standing up and TAKING A STAND. #BLM

    Reply to this comment

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