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Crane Removes Robert E. Lee Statue That Stood For 81 Years

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Crews came to finish what they started last week, removing a Confederate statue that has stood for 81 years in Robert E. Lee Park.

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It took no more than three hours to remove the controversial statue. It will be temporarily kept at Hensley Field, an 88-year-old Naval Air Station owned by the city of Dallas, until city leaders decide where it will go from there.

The fate of the monument was in limbo since last Wednesday, when the Dallas City Council voted 13-1 to remove it. City workers and heavy equipment were in place, and a harness was even placed around the statue. But, just hours after the vote, a judge granted a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans a restraining order that blocked the removal.

A judge dismissed the restraining order of Sons of Confederate Veterans member Hiram Patterson a day later, saying that he hadn't proven that the removal of the monument violated free-speech rights or that the City of Dallas hadn't provided due process for its removal.

With the okay to again remove the statue, Dallas police watched over it through that night. While everything was quiet as last Friday's rush hour approached, crowds of people had stopped by the statue to see it, take photographs and debate its removal.

As crews worked to remove the statue Thursday, many people witnessed the takedown. Some looked on as they passionately argued their views on the controversial removal while others were a little more calm about their diverse opinions on the matter.

"There is nothing good about this," said Dallas resident Beverly East. "It shows the lack of education in America today."

"I feel good that means the country is moving forward. That means society is moving forward," said Dallas resident Chris Reid, "You won't have people who look to him as a hero. He shouldn't be a hero."

"I feel like we're kind of erasing a part of our nation's history," said Dallas resident Harrison Baldwin. "They should be taught that this is a mistake that we made, and shouldn't run from it."

"I do agree that it's a piece of history, I just think it needs to be in an appropriate place like any other piece of history," added Dallas resident Megain Comanche, "put in a place like a museum."

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the statue of the General Lee in 1936 during a renaming ceremony of the park. It will cost some $450,000 to take it down.

Art conservator Michael Van Enter was tasked with making sure that the process goes smoothly.

"Every piece of stone, every part of the statuary, is going to be saved and preserved. Nothing is going to be damaged. It's going to be properly conserved until the task force decides what to do with it, where it's going to be re-commissioned, either in a museum or a graveyard, wherever it's going to go," Van Enter said. "Somewhere that's more secure."

The removal of the Robert E. Lee statue may not be the end of the Confederate debate. The city is also looking at 16 street names that may be changing -- including Lee Parkway.

There could also be calls to rename Lee Park (originally named Oak Lawn Park), which members of the organization that cares for it are prepared to do.

In a press statement, the Lee Park & Arlington Hall Conservancy said, "There are established and lengthy protocols for park naming. We are hoping that process can be expedited and the council will simply return the park's moniker to Oak Lawn Park, which was the original designation of the property when the park was established in the early 1900s."

The first crane scheduled to aid in the statue's removal was on its way from the Houston area on Sunday when it was involved in a fatal accident with an 18-wheeler at Interstate 45 and Linfield Road in Dallas.

The driver of the 18-wheeler died, and the driver of the crane was not injured.

Despite the statue's removal, a group known as This is Texas Freedom Force is still set to rally on Saturday. The event was first planned to save the Robert E. Lee monument. Now, protesters will be voicing their disapproval over its removal. Organizers noted on Facebook that this would be an open carry event.

Police will be on site, and have already said that racist flags will not be allowed.

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