New Orleans to Remove Four Confederate Monuments

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Heated debate as New Orleans considers removing Confederate monuments.

Many cities would erect a statue in honor of their 300th anniversary. NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans’ leaders on Thursday made a sweeping move to break with the city’s Confederate past when the City Council voted to remove prominent Confederate monuments along some of its busiest streets. 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. 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. 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.

It was an emotional meeting — often interrupted by heckling — infused with references to slavery, lynchings and racism, as well as the pleas of those who opposed removing the monuments to not “rewrite history.” FILE-In this In this Sept. 2, 2015 file photo, the Robert E. Several streets across the city are also named after Confederates, including Lee and Davis, but the ordinance makes no mention of changing the names of those streets. She lamented what she called a rush to take the monuments down without adequate consideration of their historic value and meaning to many in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Police Department had a strong presence in council chambers following last week’s discussion which led to at least four people being escorted from the meeting. Anti-Confederate sentiment has grown since then around the country, along with protests against police mistreatment, as embodied by the Black Lives Matter movement. As for what happens next, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has said that a private donor has offered to pay for the monuments’ removal but has not said when that will occur or where the monuments will be moved to.

A majority of council members and the mayor support the move, which would be one of the strongest gestures yet by American city to sever ties with Confederate history. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) City Council President Jason Williams called the vote a symbolic severing of an “umbilical cord” tying the city to the offensive legacy of the Confederacy and the era of Jim Crow laws. The Confederacy, you see, was on the wrong side of history and humanity.” The lone council member to oppose the removal, Stacey Head, said the statues coming down “would do nothing to break down the social and economic barriers,” according to The Times-Picayune.

The council members’ sentiments echo the emotions in the public, and those supporting the removal are applauded loudly while the two who have spoken against the removal are heckled. Before Thursday’s vote, Landrieu told the council and residents who gathered on both sides of the issue that for New Orleans to move forward, “we must reckon with our past.” Landrieu said the monuments reinforce the Confederate ideology of slavery, limit city progress and divide the city. Do it for our children, and our children’s children.” Opponents of the removal plan want the council to consider alternatives, including erecting other monuments to tell a wider narrative about the Civil War.

Another City Council member, James Gray, says the monuments do not reflect the true history of New Orleans, a city he says was mostly on the side of the Union and not the Confederacy. Michael Duplantier told the meeting: “We cannot hit a delete button for the messy parts of our history.” Others say the council should go further and remove statues and change street names they say are associated with “white supremacy.” Activist Malcolm Suber calls the monuments “products of the Jim Crow era, an era when blacks were hunted and persecuted.” Mayor Landrieu first called for taking down the monuments following the June mass shooting at the African-American Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist that left nine parishioners dead. With eyes wide open, we should truly remember history and not revere a false version of it.” In South Carolina, a Confederate battle flag was removed from the Capitol grounds.

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. In the South, allegiance to Confederate symbols has been slowly eroding, according to David Butler, a human geographer at University of Southern Mississippi. Landrieu says a commission should be established to consider creating a park where the city’s history — and the removed monuments — can be explained.

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