DALLAS - A week after a deadly protest in Charlotesville, Va., thousands of people came together in Dallas to push for peace. The rally attracted several different groups. And as night fell and some protesters moved away from Dallas City Hall, the message of peace shifted.
The “Dallas against White Supremacy” rally started at 7:30 p.m. with an estimated 2,300 people at City Hall plaza and a nearby Confederate monument. It went mostly smoothly with people in the crowd chanted phrases like, “Hey, hey! Ho ho! These statues here have to go.”
The protesters held up signs with messages like “White Supremacy is NOT Welcome in Our City” or “Beautiful Nation of Many Colors.” Someone also brought an effigy of President Donald Trump with the word “racist” was crossed out on his chest.
Raymond Simmons, a 48-year-old from Dallas, arrived at the rally wearing a picture of the two Virginia state troopers killed in a helicopter crash while patrolling a gathering in Charlottesville supporting that state's Confederate monuments. He said he believes people who engaged in violence there should be charged with treason and the death of the two troopers, as well a woman struck and killed by a car.
Speakers including the Rev. Michael W. Waters addressed the group. "Now is the time to do what is right in the city of Dallas. Now is the time to bring these monuments down," he shouted.
But there were some tense moments as the group calling for the Confederate monuments met a much smaller group calling for their protection.
A small group of self-described militia members said they were there to protect the monument rally organizers want removed. They were armed and hid their faces. They said they would protect themselves if necessary.
“All we do is we back up authorities and police officers. We help them to do their job and if we see someone doing something wrong then we will apprehend them and then we will call authorities to come,” said a named who uses the nickname Blackjack and says he’s with an organization called the Texas Elite Three Percent.
One man wearing green was escorted away by police after getting into a confrontation with the anti-white supremacy protesters. "Shame on you. Shame on you," the crowd chanted.
A more volatile group wearing all black split off from the main rally to march toward the monument. "Cops and Klan go hand in hand," they chanted. Many covered their faces. There were also some reports of protesters putting on gas masks and throwing bottles at officers.
By 9:30 p.m. there were only a couple hundred anti-police protesters still gathered at Pioneer Park Cemetery.
Officers on horseback and with riot gear slowly shut down the park. They warned the lingering protesters that the permit for the rally had expired and people would soon be arrested if they did not go home.
There were reports of several arrests as the crowd disbursed but no reports of injuries.
Dallas police were monitoring everything from the emergency operations center, which Dallas officials activated for the night. They had very meticulously placed barricades all across the City Hall plaza both to keep people away from things like the fountains and also to keep some groups apart.
“The Dallas Police Department is prepared with an operational plan for the rally tonight at the City of Dallas - City Hall. I call on all citizens who plan to exercise their First Amendment right to do so in a civil and peaceful manner. To do otherwise is to forfeit all credibility on a matter of great importance to our city and our country,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement earlier in the day.
Officers from the Garland and Grand Prairie police departments were also helping to keep the peace, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Dallas police said officers would be highly visible but would stay on the outskirts of the crowd as long as everything went smoothly.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.