Debate Over Removal of Confederate Monuments Stirs Passions

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cantrell’s Monumental Flip-Flop.

Impassioned residents heckled each other and at least one man made an inappropriate gesture that got him escorted out of City Hall during a heated debate Thursday over whether city officials should remove prominent Confederate monuments from some of New Orleans’ busiest thoroughfares. A new “low-barrier” homeless shelter, an initiative led by Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and the Downtown Development District, moved one step closer to reality this month after the New Orleans City Council approved operating funding and officials met with San Antonio officials to discuss a similar shelter that had been built there. Those arguing before the City Council to keep the monuments included preservationists who valued them as pieces of history and military veterans who said they were a way to honor American soldiers. A more nuanced discussion was needed, Cantrell said, that evaluated each monument individually as well as considering others symbols not originally proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Without requiring restrictions such as sobriety or having an ID, more people – especially the mentally ill and chronically homeless – can access services by just walking in. She cites other problems in the City and labels the monument ordinance a “distraction.” In her statement, she claims that the legislation was “was thrust upon the City and the Council from the top down after it was created by a small, select group of individuals.” Strangely, Cantrell favored monument removal just a few months ago and even sponsored the very ordinance up for debate. Before the meeting, a handful of people held Confederate flags in support of the statues while a larger group gathered next to them and held signs demanding removal.

At the time she declared, “All of our public spaces should reflect our values.” I would like to clarify any speculation from the public at large about my position on the monuments.I am opposed to the current ordinance before Council that will remove four of the multiple Confederate monuments and memorials of our city. The push to remove racially charged symbolism has fused, too, with the outrage over police shootings of unarmed blacks and lingering patterns of racism — a current movement embodied by the group Black Lives Matter and student protests, such as what happened at the University of Missouri that led to the resignation of the college system president. In the South, allegiance to Confederate symbols has been slowly eroding, according to David Butler, a human geographer at University of Southern Mississippi.

The Confederate-flag bearers included a couple of African-Americans, including Arlene Barnum, a 61-year-old woman who said she traveled to New Orleans from Oklahoma to oppose the removal of the monuments. Beauregard, the Confederate general, mounted on a horse in the center of another traffic circle at the entrance to City Park could be struck from the cityscape. Roman, who is in charge of the NOPD Homeless Assistance Unit, two representatives from the business community and Ellen Lee from the City’s Office on Community Development. Finally, I oppose this ordinance as it has been written and debated because it divides us into two groups: ‘for’ and ‘against.’ In my many years of working in the neighborhood, my leadership was always informed by a diverse public who provided insights on the way forward.

A statue of Davis, the Confederate president, and an obelisk dedicated to the Crescent City White League, white supremacists who sought to topple the biracial government after the Civil War, are the other two monuments the mayor wants off the city streets. Both his grandparents, he said, came from plantations in their day. “It’s personal when you had to ride segregated street cars, and go to the segregated restaurants,” he said.

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