Texas forum speakers call for removing Confederate statues

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Dozens of speakers at a University of Texas forum appealed Tuesday for the removal from the Austin campus of statues honoring Confederate Civil War heroes.

More than 100 people filled an auditorium in the campus Student Activity Center for the midday forum, and an overwhelming majority of the 25 speakers urged the removal of the statues of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy; Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston; and Confederate Postmaster General John H. Reagan.

“It’s a part of history, no one is denying that. But it’s not a part of history I want to glorify,” said graduate student X’ene Sky. “If there was something erected to the Holocaust, we would not be having this conversation.”

The issue gained new focus as state governments and businesses remove Confederate symbols after last month’s mass shooting of black church members in Charleston, South Carolina, that officials call a racial hate crime. New University of Texas President Greg Fenves says he wants formal recommendations by Aug. 1 on whether to remove the statues.

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Student Rich Heyman noted the statues were not erected in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War but later, when lynchings were common and the Ku Klux Klan was on the rise.

“Those statues are meant to commemorate the resurgence of white supremacy in the early 20th century and not the Civil War,” he said.

Terry Ayers, spokesman for the Descendants of Confederate Veterans, was one of a handful of people who spoke in defense of the statutes. The heroes of the Confederacy, he said, “are to be honored on this campus.”

Said graduate student Alex Blackburn: “As a history lover, I think all of it should be preserved.”

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The next forum is scheduled for July 15 on the Austin campus.