An informational campaign and protest, by groups who oppose relocating the Cenotaph, began at Alamo Plaza on Monday and will culminate in a rally on Saturday.
“The Cenotaph is kind of a community headstone for anyone who is an Alamo defender descendent,” said Paul Gescheidle (above), a member of This is Texas Freedom Force (TTFF), the most vocal group opposed to the monument’s relocation.
Squire Damon (also spelled Daymon) is Gescheidle’s ancestor, who died at the Battle of the Alamo. Damon was among the “Immortal 32,” a group of 32 men from Gonzales who responded to Lt. Col. William Barret Travis’ plea for reinforcements at the Alamo.
On Monday, Gescheidle talked about his connection to the Alamo and Cenotaph, while wearing a red, white and blue cowboy hat and handing out flyers to passersby about the proposed move of the monument. About half-a-dozen TTFF members, also decked out in patriotic attire, did the same.
For Gescheidle and others in the 15,000-member statewide group, suggestions to move the monument are disrespectful.
The Alamo interpretive plan proposes moving the Cenotaph about 500 feet south to a place in front of the Menger Hotel. Planners have said the move is necessary to recreate most of the original footprint of the compound and enable clear views of the Alamo as people approach the plaza.
Last Wednesday, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño said several aspects of the plan can be modified, but moving the Cenotaph is “not an option.”
The TTFF members aren’t backing down.
TTFF members have talked to about 1,000 people about the Cenotaph since Monday, said Keri Hillyer, the group’s director of research. They’re encouraging people to contact Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s office, the Texas General Land Office, and their City Council member about the issue.
“This isn’t just about the city of San Antonio … the Alamo represents people from all over the country,” Hillyer said.
TTFF member Lupe Rivera kept a Texas flag, emblazoned with a rattlesnake and the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me,” propped on his shoulder as he spoke to people in front of the Cenotaph this week. He said TTFF members have also talked to people from as far away as Germany and Australia about the monument move.
“What they’re trying to do to us here is a travesty,” he said.
“These politicians have come around, they want to change everything. It’s a travesty. That’s the only word I can use.”
In an online market research survey about the Alamo, in which 2,068 visitors responded, about 77 percent were Texans and the rest resided in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver and Phoenix.
People were asked if their preference was to “Repair/restore The Alamo Cenotaph, add names of missing Defenders, relocate the Cenotaph to a prominent location outside the historic mission footprint, visible from the Church.” Read the survey here.
The results show 63 percent of respondents strongly agreed with the statement, 31 percent were neutral, and 6 percent disagreed.
Respondents were not asked if they agreed with keeping the Cenotaph in place, and no focus group studies have been conducted throughout the Alamo planning process, Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald said.
Focus groups provide more qualitative research and allow people more options to respond to questions in a nuanced way.
The Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, another organization opposed to moving the Cenotaph, conducted its own survey of 2,569 people via email and robocall. In that survey, 60 percent of people were in favor of keeping the Cenotaph at its current location, 6 percent favored moving it, and 34 percent didn’t have enough information or had no opinion.
The survey, however, began by setting up the options with the description, “The Cenotaph is an impressive structure commissioned in 1936 to honor the Alamo Defenders on the ground where they died.”
The $2,000 survey was paid for by Lee Spencer White, president of the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association. White’s survey was only conducted among Texas residents and she calls the city-endorsed research a “tourist survey.”
She asked, “Do you want the tourist input or do you want the Texans’ input?”
The TTFF members continued their protest Friday on Alamo Plaza. On Saturday, a larger event called, “Save the Alamo Cenotaph Protest” is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Alamo Plaza. It’s being co-hosted TTFF is co-hosting the rally with members from the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association.
Correction: The Alamo Defenders Descendants Association conducted the survey via robocall and email about Texans’ perspectives regarding moving the Cenotaph. A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the survey.
Treviño: Keeping the Alamo Cenotaph in place is ‘not an option’
Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron