AUSTIN (KXAN) — A yearly Texas tradition honoring Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and other Confederate officials is once again under fire.
Texas Rep. Jarvis Johnson, Dist. 139, says he’ll introduce House Bill 36 — first introduced in 2019 — which would end “Confederate Heroes Day,” observed every January 19.
“I believe now more than ever, with white supremacists rioting in the U.S. Capitol, we must combat white supremacy and its historical representations wherever we find them,” Johnson said.
The riots on Jan. 6, widely considered to have been incited by President Donald Trump, included a mass of pro-Trump supporters breaching Capitol security as the Senate met to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Five people, including one Capitol officer, were killed in the melee — and investigation into the incident increasingly shows lawmakers who would not overturn election results were targets. Vice President Mike Pence came eerily close to a throng intent on lynching him.
“Confederate Heroes Day” has been observed in Texas since 1973, and it’s not the only U.S. state to recognize it. Eight other states do.
This year, the polarizing holiday comes the day after Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday.
In 2015, Texas Rep. Donna Howard filed a bill to rename the holiday “Civil War Remembrance Day,” according to the Texas Tribune. But the bill was killed in committee.
“Now is the perfect time, after everything that we’ve experienced over the past interim with Black Lives Matter, and absolutely increased consciousness about institutional racism and implicit bias,” Howard said. “I don’t know how anybody could justify having a state holiday that dignifies Confederates, especially at this point in time, so I am very hopeful.”
After nearly a year of calls for social justice in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Black lawmakers believe now is the time for the holiday to be gone with the wind.
“With enough voices and support, we can make enough noise that the legislature as a whole will be forced to listen,” Johnson says.
He’ll host a virtual conference laying out HB 36 on Tuesday. The panel was originally to be held in-person, but moved online after nationwide threats of violence surrounding Inauguration Day.
On Friday, the Texas State Capitol was closed through Wednesday after planned “armed protests.” Texas DPS says it’s working with the FBI and Austin Police Department in case any incidents occur.