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HOUSTON–During a March 2 press conference of Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition (FTPC) announced the judge Lawrence “Larry” Weiman’s ruling of the two-month trial run to uphold the temporary retraining order to save the brick streets in Freedmen’s Town in the hearing. “We started this phase of the journey in July 2014 and we are here today to make an announcement detailing the result of our work along a preservation journey to save a spiritual and cultural resource in historic Freedmen’s Town,” said Dorris Ellis president of the Coalition. Ellis said that because history needs to be protected by law, the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition took up the task to do it and that is what brought them to the civil courthouse steps where they have being seeking justice since January 20. The parties return to court on Monday, May 4 for the full trial.
Following the Houston City Council’s vote of June 11 which would destroy history property and the brick streets in Freedmen’s Town, the FTPC was established and has gone before the Mayor and city council almost every week, beginning in July 2014 where they pointed out errors in the city’s interpretation of the National Historic Preservation Act and the Texas Historical Commission’s regulations. The FTPC’s attempt was to make a political appeal to the Mayor and city council. Falling on deaf ears and using underhanded tactics and trickery, Ellis said that the city on December 15 called the FTPC to review a cleaning process and care of the bricks method when they indeed had planned the removal of the bricks which destroys the spiritual and cultural legacy.
“This deception caused me to engage in a civil act of protest and place my body in the space where the bricks had been removed which stopped the destruction of the traditional culture property on that day,” Coalition President Dorris Ellis said. Again the FTPC tried to employ in ethnical talks with the Mayor and the city council to no avail and the Coalition was forced into seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) which was granted on January 20, 2015 by Judge Alexandria Smooths-Hogan of the 164th Civil District Court who ordered a hearing for January 30. Before the hearing could begin, on January 26, the city moved to dissolve the TRO before Judge Smooths-Hogan to no avail. Thus, the TRO hearing was moving forward. Again before the hearing could begin, judge Lawrence “Larry” Weiman ordered the parties into mediation and that failed which returned the parties to court for the full hearing.
Once the parties were in court, plaintiff’s pro bono attorney Ben Hall had to ward off multiple attempts by the city and its agents to keep the hearing on track with a final decision on the merit of the TRO. Injunctive relief was granted on Monday, March 2 from Judge Lawrence “Larry” Weiman of the 80th Civil District Court. He granted injunctive relief to the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition, and ordered Conrad Construction Co., Ltd., saying, “its agents, employees, servants and representatives, and all those acting in concert with them, be and hereby are prohibited from in any manner, directly or indirectly, removing, altering, damaging, destroying, covering, salvaging, rearranging, disturbing or excavating any bricks from any of the streets, alleys and avenues located within the geographical boundaries of Freedmen’s Town Historic District from the date of this Order until judgment is entered upon final trial upon the merits of this case. “
The judge also ordered plaintiffs to post a bond in conformance with the law in the amount of $5,000, which is already posted to support the prior TRO.
The order shows that the law was on the side of the plaintiffs and that unless restrained and enjoined from removing the bricks, Conrad Constructions would remove, alter, damage, destroy or excavate the brick paved streets situated within Freedmen’s Town without appropriate permit from the Texas Historical Commission in violation of the Texas Natural Resources Code section 191.93 and 191.131, and that FTPC would suffer irreparable harm.
Ellis said, “The coalition expresses appreciation to all the residents who have prayed for this outcome along the way to a final resolution, who have donated from .50 and higher to pay for services required to get to this juncture. The FTPC could not have come this far without your prayers and the funds to cover expenses in the case.
“We are especially appreciative to the Cuney Homes residents for championing the cause by making small individual transforming donations that showed the way for others.”
The Coalition further articulated its thanks to attorney Ben Hall and attorney Bill Van Fleet for taking the case on a pro bono basis to help preserve this historic traditional cultural property in Freedmen’s Town.