Texas Freedom Activists Go Ballistic After Crews Start Work in San Antonio's Alamo Plaza

The Alamo Cenotaph - City of San Antonio
City of San Antonio
The Alamo Cenotaph
Correction: This story was updated to specify that the city hasn't yet determined where the gazebo will be placed.

With the city largely hunkered down under a stay-at-home order, work crews this week began removing two Alamo Plaza fixtures — steps that critics of the landmark's redevelopment claim were deliberately timed to avoid scrutiny.

Video shot by This Is Texas Freedom Force, a group that's protested the $450 million Alamo Plaza redevelopment, shows workers fencing off portions of the plaza and appearing to dismantle the Ladybird Johnson Fountain.

"Are you working for the city or for the state," the videographer asks hard-hatted members of the crew, who don't respond.

TITFF activists appeared at Thursday's city council meeting, raising objections to the work and arguing that it violates the stay-at-home order Mayor Ron Nirenberg declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We told them if this doesn't cease and this construction continues on — because it's a nonessential project — we're going to call for all Texans to come out, and we're going to hold a cenotaph rally right out there in the middle of everything," TITFF President Brandon Burkhart said in a video posted to Facebook following the meeting.

In reality, both changes were approved in December when San Antonio’s Historic Design and Review Commission voted 7-4 to approve elements of the redevelopment plan, including a new placement for the Cenotaph monument, said Vince Michael, executive director of the San Antonio Conservation Society.

"It is a time when you worry about things being done sub rosa, but as far as we can tell, when it comes to Alamo Plaza, they're doing work that was already approved," Michael said.

The fountain is being returned to the original donor, while the gazebo will ultimately be shipped to a city park. A city council vote will be required to determine which park gets the bandstand, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño said.

Neither of the landmarks being removed by work crews is historic. The fountain was installed in 1974, according to the Conservation Society, and the bandstand was also erected some time in the 1970s.

Despite the new work in the plaza, crews have not started on the most controversial change approved in December: the relocation of the Cenotaph. The plan calls for moving that monument — erected a century after the battle of the Alamo — some 500 feet across the plaza.

The TITFF, which also protested against the removal of a Confederate monument in Travis Park, has called the Cenotaph's planned relocation a blow against freedom and an attempt to erase the state's history.

At present, there's no scaffolding around the Cenotaph itself, since work to move it can't get underway without the blessing of the Texas Historical Commission. The agency was scheduled to vote on the relocation in late March but cancelled its meeting.

A THC spokesman said the commission could meet again via video in May, although a date has not been set. That meeting will include opportunities for public comment, he added.

Following Historical Design and Review's December vote, Burkhart told the Express-News the TITFF, which frequently brings guns to its protests, was prepared to use “physical force” to stop work on the cenotaph.

"There are more Texans that are not happy with moving the Cenotaph than there are who are for it,” he added.

A rally the group staged at Alamo to protest the vote drew roughly 50 people, according to the daily.

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