WEATHERFORD, Texas — A Confederate statue at the center of a heated debate in a small Texas town will remain in place after county commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to leave it standing on county courthouse property.

Parker County Commissioner George Conley led the charge to keep the statue, voicing a motion that was followed by unanimous approval by the elected board.

“That statue honors the dead, it doesn’t honor the Confederacy,” Conley said. “I’m going to make a motion that we leave the monument where it has been for over 100 years and get on with whatever happens after that.”

Other commissioners, and county leaders voiced their support and lent their votes, escalating a debate that has become heated in the small community a short drive west of Dallas.

“It represents our history, it represents those that have died in war on both sides,” County Judge Pat Deen said.

“It represents a time in our history that no longer exists today, thankfully. If we look at what the constituents want here, I can speak for myself, that there’s been an overwhelming number to not remove that statue.”

The vote followed five days after a protest on the courthouse grounds at the feet of the controversial statue turned violent.

Fights broke out last week as protesters calling for the statue's removal were confronted by counter protesters, and multiple police agencies responded to break up the melee. Local police have since been criticized during public meetings for slow response to protest organizers' pleas for help as the clash escalated.

A local group calling for the removal of the 100-year-old donated statue -- a nonspecific likeness of a Confederate soldier -- from county property have been turning out in small numbers since mid-June, following a nationwide movement to cleanse public properties of such symbols following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

A member of the Progressives of Parker County, the group organizing the protests to remove the monument, was left reeling after the commissioners voted. 

“What happened is a travesty,” said Tony Crawford, a longtime Weatherford resident. “This is a deep-seated thing we’ve touched on in Weatherford. We need to take a deep breath and regroup.”

Crawford, who is Black, said he doubted claims by Deen and other commissioners that an overwhelming number of calls from constituents drove the unanimous vote, and said he suspects many of those calls came from right-wing groups fighting to keep the statue.

Crawford said he expects a similarly strong reaction from counter-protesters and another weak reaction from local officials and police if his group once again gathers on the courthouse lawn to call for the statue's removal.

“I feel like [the counter-protestors] were rewarded for Saturday,” he said. “Under no circumstances am I letting anyone from the Texas Patriots or the Texas Freedom Fighters think that they ran me out of my hometown,” Crawford said.

Despite the commissioners’ vote, Crawford said he believes in his hometown and the people’s hearts who live here, adding that there are good people around now like there were more than 150 years ago when two of his relatives were lynched on the courthouse lawn not far from where the statue resides.

“When we found the newspaper clipping on our ancestors being lynched, one of the things that stuck out to me in that news clipping was it said that the hanging of my ancestors set neighbor against neighbor, which means Weatherford always had some good people,” he said. “They were just outnumbered by people whose ideology is wrong, and it still is today in this community.”

Jeff Prince contributed to this report.

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