Texas nearly became the 10th state to issue license plates prominently featuring the Confederate battle flag, but 501(c)4 non-profit organization Progress Texas fought the action with a coordinated grassroots campaign and got the plates rejected. Here's how they did it. — Ed.
Specialty license plates are normally a simple thing in Texas. In the last two years, groups have requested the state of Texas produce 89 different specialty plates. But yesterday, for the first time, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles rejected a specialty license plate.
The plate in question was proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that has pushed to have their group's logo – featuring the Confederate battle flag of Virginia – on state plates across the country.
Currently, nine states have the Confederate flag on their license plates. Last April, Texas appeared poised to join them, until the unfortunate death of one of the TxDMV board members led to a split 4-4 vote. The vote was pushed back, and our organization Progress Texas stepped in.
In May, we began a steady campaign to raise awareness of the plate in the public. Coupling direct citizen action with press outreach, Progress Texas began an online petition drive seeking signatures that would call on Texas Governor Rick Perry and the TxDMV board to reject the Confederate battle flag, an image we consider a "racist relic."
In the following months, we reached out through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and their website and managed to – with the help of other online groups like MoveOn – managed to collect more than 22,000 signatures in several months.
"I listened to the comments, the feelings and emotions of people before the board and what they think is best for the state,"— Johnny Walker, TxDMV Board Member
The online organizing was impressive, especially because it was coupled with growing awareness on the national stage. In the middle of the signature drive, Governor Perry announced his campaign for President. Within months, Perry was hounded by questions of racism when the unfortunate name of his family's hunting ground became public.
Meanwhile, we pressed on. In an October forum hosted by the Texas DMV, Progress Texas presented the 22,000 signatures to the Texas DMV board during a small public hearing in Austin. Other than the NAACP, no elected officials or organizations were present at the meeting. But with the signatures delivered and the board preparing for a November 10 vote, the outside pressure began to ramp up for the board to reject the plates.
The tipping point came when Governor Perry announced his opposition to the plates. Progress Texas stepped up the pressure on the board, organizing their existing supporters to generate over 3,000 e-mails directly to the TxDMV board in the week before the vote.
In the end, the efforts worked. On Thursday, November 10, the TxDMV board met again to take a final vote on the Confederate battle flag license plates. Unlike the October meeting, this one was packed –elected officials, pastors, and organizations from across the state turned out for a standing room only meeting on the Texas Capitol grounds. After hours of testimony, the board switched course and unanimously rejected adopting the Confederate flag battle plates.
This story originally appeared on Progress Texas on November 11, 2011, and was republished with permission.
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