Thursday, December 17, 2015, the New Orleans city council approved an ordinance declaring three confederate monuments and a monument to white supremacist terrorism to be nuisances, thus paving the way for them to be removed. [story here and here] Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “As we approach the Tricentennial, New Orleanians have the power and the right to correct historical wrongs and move the City forward. The ties that bind us together as a city are stronger than what keeps us apart.” Mayor Landrieu also said, “The time surely comes when (justice) must and will be heard. Members of the council, that day is today. The Confederacy, you see, was on the wrong side of history and humanity.” Mayor Landrieu wants the monuments moved to a Civil War park or a museum. In his statement prior to the council meeting, the mayor said the monuments were not placed to honor people but rather to honor a specific ideology, which is white supremacy. He said confederate soldiers fought against the United States in a cause that was wrong. After the 6-1 vote, the mayor signed an order to move the statues to Robert E. Lee, Pierre G. T. Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis, as well as an obelisk commemorating a September 14, 1874 coup by white supremacist terrorists at Liberty Place [more on the so-called “Battle of Liberty Place” here]. In September, the Vieux Carré Commission voted unanimously to recommend the removal of this obelisk to racist terrorism. See stories here and here.
Supporters of the white supremacist monuments filed suit in Federal Court to halt their removal. “The legal argument reprises arguments in a lawsuit filed in the early 1990s and supported, among others, by avowed Ku Klux Klan member David Duke. One of the monuments the city is now trying to remove has been in public display under a federal order prompted by that lawsuit. Duke in September indicated supporters of the monuments would sue again if the city sought to remove the landmarks.” Their argument claims that the monuments have become essentially parts of federally funded streetcar lines. It remains to be seen if this leap of logic withstands judicial scrutiny.
The action has garnered commentary from other media outlets as well. My blogging colleague Kevin Levin published a piece for the Atlantic commenting on the council’s vote, giving some historical perspective. The local response was predictable as well. The comments section of Kevin’s blog piece on this is well worth perusing.
Supporters of the white supremacist monuments ask if other monuments will be looked at for removal as well. The mayor responds here.
You can view the city council meeting in its entirety here.
The Federal lawsuit has to be heard, the process of lifting the Federal protection on the white supremacist terrorist monument has to proceed, and the moving of the monuments still has to happen.