The public debate over a Confederate monument in Gainesville continues, albeit with fewer protesters.
A smaller crowd gathered Wednesday evening at the steps of the Cooke County Courthouse as Pro Gainesville hosted its second large-scale protest advocating for removal of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on courthouse grounds.
Police Chief Kevin Phillips estimated roughly 150 people — a mix of protesters and counter-protesters — spread out on the east side of the courthouse square and along the east side of Dixon Street. A few people open-carried handguns.
A similar protest July 1, he noted, drew a substantially larger turnout, especially among counter-protesters.
Protesters supporting Pro Gainesville were joined by a group from La Danza de Gainesville. That group carried signs about the death of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old U.S. Army soldier at Fort Hood who authorities believe was killed in April by another soldier. Guillen’s family has said she was sexually harassed while in the Army and is seeking a congressional investigation into her death.
“It was so beautiful having our sisters… standing in solidarity and support of uplifting of vulnerable populations,” said Torrey Henderson, one of Pro Gainesville’s founders.
Phillips and Henderson both said the protest remained peaceful. Police took no enforcement action at the protest, Phillips said, though officers did stop some motorists in the courthouse area over “various traffic violations and noise ordinance violations.”
Henderson praised Gainesville Police Department’s handling at the protest, saying the department was “much more supportive and seemed more impartial” than at the previous week’s event. Denton County NAACP this week had criticized officers’ behavior during the July 1 protest.
Pro Gainesville is not planning a protest next week. Henderson said the group is allowing that time for officials to share a plan to respond to its requests.
She added members are planning to attend the second “Let’s Take a Seat At The Table” roundtable event set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, at the Gainesville Civic Center, 311 S. Weaver St. The public is being invited to the event to discuss racial injustice. Henderson encouraged counter-protesters to attend as well.