Protesters rally, cheer as demolition equipment leaves Union Plaza neighborhood

Protesters rally around the Union Plaza neighborhood on Sept. 11, 2017. Credit: KFOX14 / CBS4

The drama continues over the fate of a Union Plaza neighborhood that sits in the footprint of a multipurpose cultural and performing arts center.

At one point on Monday, fencing was up around several buildings and demolition equipment was nearby as the city said demolition could begin as early as Tuesday morning.

As the night progressed, however, protesters removed the fencing, rallied around the neighborhood and cheered as word arrived that an injunction had been handed down by the 8th Court of Appeals.

The city asked the judge to throw out a case asking for a restraining order on demolitions. The judge denied the motion and the city asked for an appeal.

That would’ve blocked the order from going into effect, but the people against the arena were ready. They filed their own appeal with just enough time to get an injunction.

Without the injunction, property owners could have knocked down buildings for the performing arts center as soon as Tuesday morning.

Max Grossman, who is leading the charge against the arena, said the city knew exactly what it was doing when it asked for an appeal so late in the day, but his legal team was ready.

“It was very close. Luckily, my attorneys were very well-prepared,” Grossman said. “They thought of this contingency. They already started working on it this morning just in case the city would pull something like that. But it was particularly slimy the way that this was handled.”

Earlier in the day, Judge Patrick Garcia heard closing arguments from attorneys that centered around wrecking balls coming through a portion of Union Plaza.

City attorneys argued that the judge shouldn’t allow a restraining order on demolition because the city didn’t violate or threaten to violate the Texas Antiquities Act.

They also said the neighborhood, known as Duranguito, isn’t historic and isn’t in violation of the code.

Attorneys also said the Texas Historical Commission acknowledged the project and where it was going, and the commission hasn’t intervened in recognizing possibly historic buildings.

Opponents of the arena said the city has violated the code, and they brought up how the city has relocated the people who live in the neighborhood and controls whether the buildings are empty.

The court, however, later granted the injunction keeping the city from demolishing the neighborhood “pending the court’s review of this original proceeding,” court records said.

Into the evening hours, around 100 people shouted, chanted and held signs pushing for all of the construction equipment to be removed from the area.

Though the protest ended in celebration, they said the fight isn’t over yet.

“We consider this a huge victory right now,” said Clavo Martinez, a protester. “We knew we were within our rights to be here and keep the demolition crews from doing what they’re doing.”

Some of the protesters said their actions were about supporting the community and families that have a special place in the city.

Eric Chavez said the protest was about voicing the residents’ concerns and determining what was best for them and not what the city says is more important.

Separate from the hearing, members of Paso Del Sur turned in a petition with 2,200 signatures saying they want the public to decide to save the neighborhood and turn Union Plaza into a historic district.

The city rejected a previous petition, but said it will review this one before taking any action.

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