Protests erupted at the Kaufman County Courthouse this Saturday, June 22, when opposing views clashed over requests to remove a Confederate Soldier statue which sits in front of the building.
On 9 a.m. Saturday morning, protesters gathered. A large number of attendees displayed Confederate flags, openly carried firearms, and displayed pro-Confederate signs. Despite the “Kaufman County Democrats” cancelling their planned protests, there were still many protesters, possibly unaffiliated with the group, voicing their wish to remove the statue. While the vast majority of attendees on both sides remained calm, some reached their boiling points, screaming and making threats towards each other. At one point, protestors from both sides fired ad-hominem insults at one another. Despite the flaring of tempers, no violence ensued during the protests, and no arrests were made.
Many protestors wanted to engage in calm dialogue with those that held opposing views. While speaking to another individual, one protestor was overheard saying “We can sit here and argue and fight, and it doesn't accomplish anything, us yelling and screaming at each other. But until we can actually have conversations, nothing can happen. I don’t hate ya’ll." These sentiments were shared by others, such as Chad Weldon, who said “The dialogue between people has to happen. This will not go away through legislation, through law, through yelling and cursing at each other; it goes away with respect.”
A video shared from the event shows two men, one white and one black, arriving wearing white hoods over their heads, resembling that of the Ku Klux Klan. As one raised his fist, he cried out “White and black power, both of ‘em!” Both men removed their hoods shortly after, revealing their faces to the crowd. The stunt appeared to be intended as a joke.
“I think it was meant as a… kind of humor, that to him all of it is ridiculous,” said Heather Davis, a witness who says she knows one of the men.
Police presence was heavy, and grew in response to the crowd’s increasing numbers. As the protest grew larger, squad cars piled up on the town square as well as posting on the surrounding streets. Some officers spoke with the protestors, such as Kaufman County Sheriff Bryan Beavers. Police interaction with the crowd seemed minimal, though one conflict between an officer and protester was shared via a live stream, in which the two are seen yelling at each other while surrounded by other attendees.
As the temperature rose, many took shelter below trees and other shade. Coolers full of water were presented,with bottles being offered to bystanders. Others handed out popsicles to the protesters.
By 6 p.m., most of the crowd had dispersed, after a long and hot day spent in front of the courthouse.
The events had somewhat tumultuous beginnings. The “Kaufman Confederate March” group on facebook, created by Daryl Demoin, organized a march to take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday, stating "Our Confederate history cannot disappear.” Meanwhile, another facebook group named “Kaufman County Democrats” announced its plans to protest for the removal of the Confederate Soldier statue at 9 a.m. on the same Saturday. As word spread of both groups’ intentions, members of the “Kaufman Confederate March” announced they would be arriving at 9 a.m. as well.
The “Kaufman County Democrats” later announced that the individual who organized the event, identified only as “Eston,” had cancelled the event, quoting him as saying “Sad to say that angry hate-filled people with guns have created an environment where we do not feel it is safe to hold a demonstration on Saturday after all.” As the post continued, implications of threats towards the group were voiced, saying “That statue was constructed to intimidate and limit people's access to Government facilities. The threats we have been getting do the same.” The opposing group claims no threats were made, and they only indicated they will be exercising their right to carry firearms.
Members of the Democrat group said they will organize a petition asking the Kaufman County Commissioners Court to remove the statue.