Before the sun came out on Wednesday, the City of Brownsville removed the Jefferson Davis Memorial Boulder from Washington Park, less than 12 hours after a resolution was unanimously approved by the City Commission for the monument’s removal.
Minutes after 5 a.m. city workers were caught on camera removing the monument and placing it in the back of a trailer to store it at an undisclosed location while the Brownsville city manager and the city attorney determine ownership.
“It was important for the community to move on from this and focus on all the great things that are happening in our city, rather than a rock, which had become an extremely divisive symbol that was causing anger and hate among various groups,” Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez said on Wednesday.
“Its placement on city property should have been resolved many years ago, but lingered. Our commission felt that it needed to be addressed now so we could shift our resources to fighting Covid-19 rather than ourselves.”
City Manager Noel Bernal said on Wednesday the safety of the city employees is their number one priority and the reason to have it removed early in the morning was because they already had a plan in place and wanted to remove it as swiftly as possible.
“The safety of our city and our city employees is our number one priority. Our staff is currently in the process of hurricane preparedness and continues to work on a number of capital projects. This allowed for there to be minimal disruption to operations and construction projects. We also wanted to remove the monument as soon as we could, safely and responsibly,” he said.
Ofelia Alonso, a Brownsville resident who advocated to have the boulder removed, said the effort to have it removed has been going on for years and it has been obvious that the monument doesn’t reflect the city’s values.
“I am happy that the current commissioners and mayor have taken swift action, especially in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, more than ever, we should think about the way we show up for the black community in the valley and this is a good first step,” she said.
After the city determines ownership, it will be decided where the monument should go. Some say it should be destroyed, others say it should be in storage forever and others that it should go to a museum.
Mark Kaswan, a University of Texas Rio Grande Valley professor, who was also advocating to have it removed, said he would not feel too badly if it ended up getting lost in storage and never seeing the light of day again, but that if it does re-emerge in a museum, it must be displayed in a way that places it in its proper context.
“Davis lived for 25 years after the Civil War, and he did not suffer materially because of it. Instead, he spent much of that time promoting white supremacy. The ‘cause’ of the South’s secession was the defense of slavery, and there are few people who would consider the defense of slavery to be a just cause. I also would hope that there are not many people who consider white supremacy to be a just cause,” he said.