New Orleans considers removing Confederate monuments
Confederate monument debate stirs up New Orleans’ historical anxieties.
One hundred and fifty years after the end of the US Civil War, New Orleans City Council is set to vote on whether to remove statues of what some people call pro-slavery “traitors” and others call “Confederate heroes.” Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been talking about having the symbols removed for about a year, but requested to officially topple the statues a week after the Charleston Church shooting in June. NEW ORLEANS – Prominent Confederate monuments long taken for granted on the streets of this Deep South city may be coming down as allegiance to Confederate symbols slowly erodes in the South and blacks across the nation demand an end to racism and police brutality.
Landrieu says New Orleans wants to present itself as a city that values culture and diversity, and big places in the city need to be reserved for that. All times local: After nearly six months of debate, supporters and opponents of an ordinance to remove four monuments dedicated to Confederate history in New Orleans are showing up to speak out on the topic before a City Council vote.
The New Orleans Police Department will have a strong presence in council chambers following last week’s discussion which led to at least four people being escorted from the meeting. The ordinance calls the monuments a nuisance because they foster ideologies that undermine the equal protection clause provided by the Constitution and because they support the idea of racial supremacy.
Their ordinance has sparked passionate responses for and against these symbols, and both sides will get one more say at a special council meeting before Thursday’s vote. “This has never happened before,” said Charles Kelly Barrow, commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “I’ve never heard of a city trying to sweep [away] all Confederate monuments.” Geographers have identified at least 872 parks, natural features, schools, streets and other locations named for major Confederate leaders in 44 states, according to a mapping project. Beauregard, a high-ranking Confederate officer; a monument to Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president; and the Liberty Place monument, commemorating a deadly 1874 uprising by the Crescent City White League, a white supremacist group, against the integrated Reconstruction government. 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.
A majority of council members and the mayor support removing four major monuments, which would be one of the strongest gestures yet by American city to sever ties with Confederate history. Confederate iconography is being questioned and in some cases erased around the country following what police described as a white supremacist’s shooting of nine black people inside a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina. 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.
Charles Avenue since 1884: A 16-foot-tall bronze statue of Lee stands atop a 60-foot-high Doric marble column, which itself rises over granite slabs on an earthen mound. Lewis, who advocates for equal employment access and living wages with the center’s Stand With Dignity campaign, links the monuments to the slavery era and to present-day economic inequalities. “We are not in shackles, but we are working till we die from paycheck to paycheck,” she said. Above it all, the Virginian stands in his military uniform, with his arms folded and his gaze set firmly on the North — the embodiment of the “Cult of the Lost Cause” southerners invoked to justify continued white power after the Civil War. On Tuesday, a volunteer group that looks after monuments across the city said it had collected about 31,000 signatures of people opposed to the removal of the monuments. “But a lot of us were Confederates,” he added. “New Orleans was part of the Confederacy.
Like Lewis, Quess links the Confederate monuments and systemic issues in the black community, like high crime and unemployment rates. “All of those things are not separate. The people who erected the Confederate statues, McGraw says, “wanted to send a message to the future that at the time they thought these people had made a significant contribution … These were noble men in their eyes.” The committee’s counterplan to address the monument controversy includes advocating “respect and tolerance for all monuments,” adding interpretive plaques to some statues and erecting new ones. Clancy Dubos, a New Orleans columnist and chairman of a weekly newspaper, suggested turning Lee Circle into “Generals Circle” by adding a statue of Union Gen.
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