A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Local News

The Worst City Council Meeting Dallas Has Witnessed in a Decade

| 11 hours ago

On Friday afternoon, at a specially called meeting of the Dallas City Council, 213 public speakers signed up to air their grievances. Over the course of almost five hours, just two people spoke in support of the police.

Since Tuesday, demonstrations have been peaceful, but last weekend was filled with tear gas and violence. A man lost his eye and seven teeth after being shot with what appeared to be a sponge bullet, a “less lethal” form of crowd control that police used on peaceful protesters throughout the weekend. Another man had his jaw broken by a cork bullet fired by an officer with either the Irving or Garland police departments; that’s still under investigation. A curfew was initiated Sunday, and 124 people who violated it were shuttled to Lew Sterrett. Some were filmed being thrown to the concrete before their arrest. Then, on Monday, 674 marchers were corralled after walking onto the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and shot with sponge rounds and detained.

For the public speakers yesterday, those wounds were still fresh, even if the last few days have been quiet and meaningful.

“Blinding us instead of killing us is not progress,” said Ben Struby.

“I am now terrified to be a vocal member of my community,” said Jesse Solis.

“Tear gas is a chemical weapon,” said Justin Boyd.

“I have been horrified by what I’ve seen in our city,” said Allison MacMahon.

“For the past 50 years, Dallas has had one of the most unaccountable police forces in this country,” said longtime activist John Fullinwider, on behalf of Mothers Against Police Violence, after naming eight people who had been shot and killed by Dallas officers since 1970. None of the cases he named ended with a murder conviction. “We have to find another way.”

“One of my main concerns in the response by DPD is the amount of trauma they’ve created in this community. I’ve had countless calls from people with depressive symptoms, anxiety attacks,” said Zandra Ellis, a co-founder of the mental health advocacy nonprofit Foundation 45.

These speakers were in pain. Some cried. Others described 7-inch welts on their thighs from being shot with sponge rounds during Monday’s mass detainment. Their voices shook through their allotted minute and a half. Some spoke of watching in horror from the safety of their downtown apartments as protesters were fired upon and taken into custody. They called for Police Chief U. Reneé Hall to be fired. Like public comment in many other cities, they demanded that City Council defund the police department and reinvest those dollars into communities of color. Later, three council members expressed being open to the idea in some form.

The voices were a contrast to the day’s peaceful events: a mourning at City Hall, culminating in an 8 minute and 46 second silence at 8:46 a.m., in honor of the amount of time Minneapolis Ofc. Derek Chauvin held his knee to George Floyd’s neck. Faith leaders led the day in prayer, and Mayor Eric Johnson and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson spoke.

“Racism is not new to this country,” Congresswoman Johnson said. “It’s a part of the fabric. I have lived it for 80-some years. But let me say this. We’re not going to live in peace until we come to grips with racism. … I want to tell you what’s on my heart. The first term that I was in public office, my first interim study was to study race relations in policing. Nothing has changed.”

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Local News

Is the Love Field Texas Ranger Statue Gone For Good?

| 1 day ago

Yesterday, the statue that greeted travelers at Love Field—One Riot, One Ranger, which depicts Texas Ranger Sgt. Jay Banks—was removed. Perhaps you were wondering how the airport managed to do it so quickly and quietly, given that the removal of statues honoring Robert E. Lee and other Confederate soldiers led to protracted battles that, in the latter case, at least, are still being waged. And perhaps you were also wondering: what happens next?

I was, too. As for the how, it is laid out here. It’s pretty short, but the shorter version is: the Aviation Director has the right, according to Dallas City Code, to “promulgate rules and to supervise and direct the use, operation, and maintenance” of the airport and its related properties and “in a manner that will provide the most efficient, safe, and economical use of the properties in serving the public interest.” In other words, if people are going to protest the statue, it will make it difficult to operate the airport, and that falls under the purview of the Aviation Director.

As for what happens next, I tried to call Jennifer Scripps, director of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, earlier today, but her voicemail was full. I reached her by email, and our brief exchange follows.

What are the next steps? As you know, the statue was only removed to storage a couple of days ago, but we plan to have the Public Art Committee and Arts and Culture Advisory Commission do their work of formulating recommendations on how to address this piece in our collection. It would then be considered by City Council’s Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee and the full Council.

Can the City Council decide to bring it back? Yes—they can bring it back into public view, but with respect to that exact location, I am actually not sure—because the Director of Love Field has concerns about its location near the TSA check-point.

If so, will there be some education component, putting it into context? This is what our future work will consider as part of the overall recommendations. Our exhaustive research on this piece as well as the history of Texas Rangers more broadly has just begun.

 If not, will it be auctioned off? Again, TBD! Although people have already reaching out wanting to buy it!

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Food & Drink

Black Leaders in Dallas’ Food Scene Talk About This Historic Moment

| 1 day ago

Dallas, like every city in the U.S. right now, is in a moment of struggle, action, and reflection. For many of us, the news feels raw and charged and galvanizing. For those in Black communities especially, it’s a struggle that is all too familiar.

As we wrestle with this greater reckoning of systemic and racial injustice, we can also look to food. At the most fundamental level, food is what nourishes us; it’s a necessity, like air is to breath. It is also the product of someone’s labor.

We’ve asked some of Dallas’ Black leaders in the food community to share their thoughts and own calls to action within the industry as we watch protesters calling for a better world. Even asking Black voices in the food world is itself requesting a labor.

Let’s listen. Let’s ask ourselves how we can respond to the concerns raised and reflect on the fact that these disparities have inflected every part of the food world. (These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.)

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Restaurant & Bar Updates

How Curfews Are Affecting Restaurants in Dallas

| 1 day ago

A lot has happened this week. As protests in Dallas continue, so too does the pandemic and the reopening of Texas’ economy.

This week Dallas County saw a record-high spike in cases, which was a predicted concern considering Memorial Day activities. The good news is that hospital admissions and ICU bed occupancy has remained relatively flat. So the push to get the economy back to some sort of semblance of normal goes on. On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the latest guidelines on reopening the Texas economy, among them: all businesses that are currently operating at 25 percent, such as bars, can move to 50 percent capacity but patrons must be seated.

Restaurants can now seat parties of up to 10 people. Beginning June 12, restaurants can increase indoor occupancy to 75 percent capacity.

While these particular restrictions loosen, another has impacted businesses already strained during the pandemic: an expanded curfew zone. The curfew order requires a shut-down of travel and traffic by 7 p.m., which means ending dinner service much earlier to allow time for cleaning and closing. It issues a drastic blow to restaurants by eliminating dinner service.

In Deep Ellum, Ichigoh Ramen Lounge owner George Itoh says his stream of clientele has been reduced to a lunchtime trickle.

“We took a big hit,” he says. Business was finally getting better, he says, with diners beginning to venture out. But the curfew wiped away dinner service—both dine in and takeout. And while the period hasn’t been nearly as long as the initial pandemic-related closing, “It felt like it hurt us even more, because we were already weakened,” says Itoh.

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Dallas Is Nearly Twice as Deadly as Houston for COVID-19 Patients

| 1 day ago

Data from Texas Health and Human Services shows that for COVID-19 patients, Dallas County has nearly twice the death rate as Harris County. Harris County has nearly twice the number of people Dallas County does (4.7 million to 2.6 million residents respectively), but Dallas County has nearly as many fatalities as Harris County from coronavirus, (249 to 241 respectively on June 4).

When looking at the two cities, the demographic differences don’t immediately explain the higher fatality rate. COVID-19 is known to impact Black patients and the elderly at a higher rates, and while Dallas does have a higher percentage of Black residents, (23 percent of the population in Dallas County, 20 percent in Harris County) it doesn’t account for the disparity. The elderly are another at-risk group, but both counties share of residents above the age of 65 in 11 percent. Dallas has a slightly higher uninsured rate (24 percent in Dallas compared to 22 percent in Harris). The two counties also have similar rates of diabetes at 11 percent, according to the Texas County Health Rankings. And according to the Census bureau, Harris County actually has a larger percentage of people living in poverty (17 percent to 14 percent in Dallas County).

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Visual Arts

New Art Honoring Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor Installed Downtown

| 1 day ago

Personal injury attorney Kevin Kelley’s law firm is located in the old Hart Furniture building next door to the Majestic Theatre downtown. For the past two years, he’s also owned the building next door, best known for being the home of the Medusa club.

On Saturday, Kelley and his two sons, Kevin and Kristian, watched from the law office as protesters marched down Elm Street. Inspired, Kelley’s sons said they wanted to find a way to speak out, too. The picture windows surrounding their dad’s building are often wrapped in advertising. Why not fill them with a positive message of support, the boys suggested.

So Kelley got to work with his advertising team, and they in turn got in touch with artist Nikkolas Smith to create a series of six murals. The first three will say “Stop Killing Blacks.” The second three will say “We Are One.” Kelley says he’s an impatient guy and he wishes they were all up already, but the plan is for them to be complete by tonight.

“We were amazed at the efforts of the protesters, so we decided to have the bottom of the building wrapped in a message of solidarity for everybody,” Kelley says. “We want to have the police stop by and have a conversation. We want to memorialize those that we’ve lost. We wanted to be creative and a find a way to support what is going on in any way that we can.

“In short — there are too many people like me who sit in buildings and high rises and watch the protests from afar. This was our opportunity to get involved.”

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Local News

Leading Off (6/5/20)

| 2 days ago

More Peaceful Protests. Demonstrators marked the seventh straight day of protests with a peaceful march and a silent gathering at City Hall. Police are now leaving the riot gear back at the office, with cruisers blocking traffic so the protesters can walk the city peacefully. Monday seems so far away now, when 674 people marched up the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and met a line of officers that responded by firing chemical smoke and sponge rounds. Chief U. Reneé Hall about-faced on charging those protesters, but maintains that the mass detainments were necessary to protect the marchers from traffic. City Manager T.C. Broadnax has the money quote: “In any form, racism is the enemy — not the protesters.” At around midnight, a department spokesman sent out an email to announce a change to the department’s use of force policy. It’s called a “duty to intervene” and requires officers “to either stop, or attempt to stop, another employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.” When George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, three other officers were watching and standing guard while Derek Chauvin held his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Hall hopes the policy will prevent a similar situation here.

The Pandemic Is Still Here. It’s easy to forget, as restaurants open to 75 percent their capacity and bars welcome in half of what they normally can. Yesterday was a record day of new cases—285—and Dallas County added just one death. That timeline dovetails nicely with Memorial Day weekend. There are currently about 300 COVID-19 patients in Dallas County hospitals. Here’s the county’s statement: “Suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICU Admissions, and ER visits continue to remain flat in Dallas County according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.” County Judge Clay Jenkins is urging protesters to stop by the American Airlines Center or the Ellis Davis Field House to get tested. The county is “working on test sites very near where you are located,” he adds. The state has now had eight straight days of increases of COVID-19 cases.

The Heat Is Here. On Saturday, the high will reach 98. The heat won’t be relenting much the other days, either. Drink lots of water, folks.

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Small Business

Downtown Dallas Inc. Offers Grants to Help Fund Storefront Repairs

| 2 days ago

Downtown Dallas businesses battling through the repercussions of COVID-19 are now dealing with another blowing issue: broken windows and chairs, graffiti, and stolen merchandise.

“The recent damages were just the icing on top,” said Beau Nazary, co-owner of Izmir Management and its Cafe Izmir restaurant. “We will rebuild, and we will survive one way or another.”

Downtown Dallas Inc. has established a Storefront Restoration Program aimed to help downtown businesses that were vandalized during recent demonstrations. The program will cover businesses with losses not covered by insurance or other means.

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Visual Arts

Should the Omni Dallas Put ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Its Facade?

| 2 days ago

Yesterday, a Dallasite named Josh Smith started a petition for Mayor Eric Johnson and the Omni Dallas to get the city-owned hotel to display ‘Black Lives Matter’ on its massive LED facade. The 23-story tall screens are prominent and dynamic pieces of the Dallas skyline, typically used to cheer on sports teams or display advertisements. The hotel has been praised for showing solidarity throughout the pandemic by sharing messages like “WASH YOUR HANDS” and “THANK YOU NURSES.” 

Smith and thousands of other Dallasites want the Omni to bring that same energy to the fight against systemic racism and police brutality. 

The petition, which you can read and sign here, is heading toward 7,000 signatures as I type this. I’m sure that number will continue to climb, and it doesn’t seem so unlikely that the hotel will make this vision a reality. After all, its famous neighbor, Reunion Tower, went dark this week for the second time ever to support #BlackOutTuesday. 

This isn’t the first time that someone has proposed that the Omni Dallas use its massive platform to send more urgent messages. When I heard about the petition, I immediately thought of a piece by the artist Jonathan Molina-Garcia that I saw at Allison Klion’s ex ovo gallery last fall. That piece is called “Omni Hack,” and it’s a scale model of the hotel, complete with a mini LED system that spells out “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” “BOTHAM,” and “ATATIANA.”

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Arts & Entertainment

Meet the Dallas Class of 2020

| 2 days ago

I didn’t have a conventional high school experience.

I went to one school freshman year, another sophomore year, then finally settled into a homeschool co-op when I was a junior. Still, I got the gist of things. My friends at public schools would take me to football and baseball games, homecoming dances and school plays. By senior year, I had a boyfriend who invited me to his prom and made it feel like a perfect teen rom-com, even though I only knew about five people there. I didn’t have a graduation that spring, but my parents had a barbecue in my honor. My dad Photoshopped a graduation cap onto the photos my mom snapped for the invitation.

So while I didn’t have a traditional high school experience, I always got to be a normal teenager. For the graduating class of 2020, that’s not possible. You and I–we never had to worry about a pandemic while navigating the time between childhood and independence.

I wanted to understand what that would be like. So, I spoke to 10 graduating students from across Dallas-Fort Worth and asked them how it feels to grow into adulthood while the world around them seemingly falls apart. Their answers gave me a lot of hope. Let’s give them the recognition they deserve. (The interviews below have been edited for length and clarity.)

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The Story Responsible for the Removal of the Love Field Texas Ranger Statue

| 3 days ago

You might know Doug Swanson’s name. He worked at the Dallas Morning News for 34 years. Now he teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2014, we published an excerpt of his book Blood Aces, a biography of Benny Binion, a dude who, like Doug, got his start in Dallas before heading off to teach writing to college kids (or run casinos and do mob stuff, whatever). It’s a great book. Reading it, I learned a lot about Depression-era Dallas. Highly recommended.

A while back, Doug asked if we’d be interested in running an excerpt from his newest book, Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team). I asked him if there was any material in the book that dealt with Dallas, and he pointed me to a chapter about a 1930 riot and lynching in Sherman.

“Sherman ain’t exactly Dallas,” I said.

“The chapter starts with that statue of the Ranger at Love Field,” Doug said, as I recall. “His name is Jay Banks. He was sent to Mansfield High School, where he sided with a mob that was trying to keep black kids out of the school. There’s a famous picture of him leaning against a tree while a black figure hangs in effigy above the entrance to the school. There’s a through line from Banks to the lynching in Sherman. I can add some stuff about him that didn’t make it into the book.”

Fast forward a few months. After reading the story in the June issue of D Magazine, city officials decided to take down the statue. The News published a story last night about the decision, though at that point, no one knew with certainty when the statue would be removed. Ladies and gentlemen, it was removed this morning.

A huge high-five to Doug from Dallas. We miss you, man. His excerpt, with the additional Banks material, went online today.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (6/4/20)

| 3 days ago

The City’s Sixth Consecutive Day of Protests Was Peaceful. Yesterday’s demonstration against police brutality and racism, organized by Not My Son, started at Dallas City Hall and continued on to the Grassy Knoll. The 200 or so protesters dispersed prior to the start of the 7 p.m. curfew. Later that evening, a listening session at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, outside the curfew zone in South Dallas, drew a crowd of about 300. Meanwhile, police from the public integrity unit interviewed Brandon Saenz, the 26-year-old who lost his eye and seven teeth after allegedly being hit by less-lethal ammunition during Saturday’s protests.

Dallas County Breaks 200 New Coronavirus Cases for the Seventh Straight Day. We had 239 new cases and 14 deaths yesterday. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins advised protesters to keep their masks on, and the Dallas Mavericks contributed hand sanitizers and masks to participants.

Thanks in Part to the June Issue of D Magazine, the Texas Ranger Statue at Love Field Will Be Removed. After we ran an excerpt from Doug J. Swanson’s upcoming book, Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers, which addresses the racist history of the Rangers and the depicted lawman in particular, airport officials suddenly paid attention to the statue they had given pride of place. There’s no date set for the removal yet, but stay tuned to FrontBurner for more details from editor Tim Rogers. (And thanks to DMN for at least giving us a shout-out, unlike WFAA.)

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