Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bill Bartie says he’s ready to what he can to block the arrival of a Confederate statue that seems to be headed for Sabine Pass.
“I don’t want them. I think that’s totally disrespectful for some society to make a decision for something to be placed here during a time that we are in civil unrest,” he said. “I would wish that they would rethink that. I’m speaking for the people of Port Arthur — not just blacks, for whites and browns and everybody.”
A statue of Richard W. “Dick” Dowling in Hermann Park is expected to be moved to be displayed at the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site in Port Arthur, according to a news release from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Dowling led 46 men to “thwart” a Union attack on Sabine Pass, which during the Civil War was a primary Texas port for Confederate shipments of supplies, according to the Texas Historical Commission.
The battle lasted less than an hour and the 47 men destroyed two gunboats. It also resulted in “significant” casualties and the capture of nearly 350 prisoners.
The statue of Dowling is one of two confederate statues planned to be moved from the Houston parks where they currently sit to locations “more relevant to modern times,” the release said.
The Executive Committee of the Texas Historical Commission, which is responsible for the Battleground site, voted to accept the statue. However, the item will need to be considered by the full commission at its June 17 quarterly meeting.
Bartie — noting his outrage was because he is the mayor of the city, not the black mayor — said he wasn’t made aware of the decision until he was contacted by a Beaumont Enterprise reporter Thursday afternoon.
He said he feels disrespected not only because he didn’t recieve an email or phone call from a representative of the commission ahead of time but also because of the evolving conversation about race taking place nationally.
“Whatever I can do to cause it not to be here — I don’t care if I need to make a human chain,” he said.
According to Turner’s news release, the city has been working on this plan for “some time,” which was moved forward now because of the events of the past several weeks.
He said relocating these statutes gives the city an opportunity to “heal” while also still preserving history.
Bartie countered that the statutes should be put in storage.
A second statue, the Spirit of Confederacy statue in Sam Houston Park downtown, will be moved to the Houston Museum of African American Culture in Houston using a grant from the Houston Endowment.
The city is expected to remove the statues as a part of the commemoration of the Juneteenth holiday on June 19 and they will be put in storage until they’re ready to be moved. Juneteenth is the remembrance of the day Texas slaves learned the Emancipation Proclamation granted their freedom.’
This report will be updated.