Sheriff’s investigators continued studying video and following tips Tuesday to find the three individuals who defaced the Denton County Confederate Soldier Memorial outside the Courthouse on the Square.
No suspects have been identified yet, but the incident has reignited controversy surrounding the memorial statue. Sometime early Monday morning, vandals scrawled the words “This is racist” in red paint across the top of the monument.
Now, the community is discussing once again what, if anything, to do with the memorial.
“The Criminal Investigations Division is continuing to review videos and tips,” said Sandi Brackeen, spokeswoman for the Denton County Sheriff’s Office. “We have received several tips and would encourage anyone that may have information, no matter how small, to call our office.
“Our office has reached out to the local businesses in the downtown area requesting video. If someone has a video and we have not made contact with them, please contact us.”
The monument, meanwhile, was all clean by Tuesday and awaiting the finishing touch, a sealant to be applied to the stone surface, according to Peggy Riddle, executive director of the Denton County Office of History and Culture.
A handful of Denton residents spoke out against the monument during Tuesday morning’s Commissioners Court meeting. Commissioners did not respond, however, because they are prohibited from commenting on issues not on the meeting agenda.
Willie Hudspeth, who was among the speakers, said after the meeting that the vandalism incident will keep the conversation about the memorial going.
“We need to do something about items, whatever they are, that conjure up feelings or cause one to think less of himself or the country or want to do things that are negative,” he said.
Hudspeth, who is black, has repeatedly said the Confederate memorial is offensive because the Confederacy fought the Civil War to preserve slavery throughout the South. He staged a protest at the monument Monday evening and though he was confronted by a man with a loaded rifle, he said he heard from people with moderate and extreme views on both sides of the argument.
Hudspeth said in lieu of moving the statue, a move he has championed for years, that plaques be altered to give a fuller picture of the history of the monument, Confederacy and soldiers. Hudspeth said he also wanted to see the water fountains on both support columns fixed and functioning.
Denton County Judge Mary Horn, who presides over the Commissioners Court, is adamant that the fountains do not work and never worked and have no water lines. She noted as well that county officials worked with Hudspeth years ago to add a plaque to the memorial.
“The wording that is on the post beside the memorial right now is something [Hudspeth] worked on and came up with and agreed to,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “A year from now, is someone going to want more wording because they aren’t happy with [Hudspeth’s] wording? Where does it stop?”
People are forgetting to take a look at the monument, Horn said.
“At the top, it’s about the soldiers,” she said. “We have other monuments around the country [like] the Vietnam wall in Washington, D.C. A lot of people protested that war.”
No one on the Commissioners Court has mentioned a desire to make any changes to the monument, Horn said.
“I don’t look for anything to change. Taking down the statue is not going to change history,” she said. “I would remind people to take a better look at it. It’s about the soldiers who lost their lives — they came in more than one color, for sure.”
Several activists, at least two with loaded weapons, gathered at the statue Tuesday evening to display their devotion to Second Amendment rights and to show solidarity in their support for the Confederate memorial.
It was a light crowd, and there were no counterprotesters. A Denton police officer was dispatched to the statue because a caller was concerned with the display, but the officer said the situation was under control and soon left the scene.
Ian McDougal, who brought his loaded AR-15 and a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, kept up with Monday’s events and wanted to get a word in on the matter.
“We felt compelled after the events of yesterday,” he said. “It kind of surprised me that here in Denton, of all places, we could see something so disregarding of history. What kind of message are you trying to send by writing ‘This is racist’ without even understanding the history of the monument?”
Denton resident Olivia Sudduth and her three young daughters stopped by for a photograph with McDougal. She said she hadn’t been aware of the protest or vandalism on Monday. Instead, she was there to educate her children on Confederate history.
“I was explaining to them about this memorial and how important it is we remember all forms of history, and not to be afraid of history — even the ugly parts,” Sudduth said. “I decided that it was really important, considering what is going on in our country, that I show them the history that is a part of our country.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjLewisDRC.
DALTON LaFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @DaltonLaFerney.
If you have information about Monday’s vandalism at the Denton County Confederate Soldier Memorial, call Lt. Larry Kish at 940-349-1665 or Denton County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-388-TIPS.