More than 200 people thronged the Cooke County Courthouse square Wednesday evening, many calling for the removal of a Confederate monument.

The group that turned out July 1 calling for the removal of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the northeast corner of the courthouse grounds was met with counter-protesters.

Several wore shirts adorned with PRO Gainesville, a Gainesville-based group that has appeared regularly at the monument site since mid-June. The group alternated between marching around the courthouse and gathering at the courthouse's east steps, shouting "black lives matter," "tear it down" and other calls to action. Many carried signs with various protest statements or slogans.

Counter-protesters milled around the statue — a 30-foot-tall stone monument with an inscription spanning the four sides of the base — or stood on the east sidewalk on Dixon Street across from the courthouse. Some open-carried firearms while a few carried signs.

Gainesville Police Chief Kevin Phillips said between 200 and 250 people turned out. Between 75 and 100 opposed the monument and about 50 were there in support, he estimated. The rest weren't identifiably affiliated with either position.

"I think we had some spectators that weren't necessarily truly aligning with either group," Phillips said Thursday, July 2.

A few wore signs identifying themselves as legal observers, or volunteers who attend protests where there's potential for conflict.

The crowd gathered well in advance of the 6:30 p.m. march in support of removing the monument from courthouse grounds. All except law enforcement had left by 9:30 p.m., Phillips said. 

Both PRO Gainesville and counter-protesters applied for and received public assembly permits from the city, and police took no enforcement action throughout the evening, he said. No arrests or other incidents were listed in the log of Wednesday police calls.

"There was no physical violence that broke out, so people were able to get through that without that occurring," Phillips said. "Overall we'll call that a success."

Mark Clark, a spokesman for PRO Gainesville, felt similarly.

"We think it went well," Clark said. "We're pleased with the turnout on our side, but saddened that so many felt the need to arrive with guns to threaten and scream hateful things at us. We're also glad no one got hurt."

Phillips said some conversations grew tense, "but for the most part, each group would tend to bring themselves back."

As of midmorning Thursday, Phillips said he wasn't aware of any reports of property damage to the businesses surrounding the courthouse square on Wednesday evening.

Clark said PRO Gainesville no longer plans to protest nightly around the monument as the group had been doing since about mid-June. Instead, they’ll gather for another march Wednesday, July 8.

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