The Latest: Groups fight removal of Confederate monuments
6-month shouting match ends in stereotyping, hyperbole.
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.The gospel hymn that the jubilant crowd sang, hands clasped and raised in the air, at New Orleans City Hall on Thursday (Dec. 17) marked the climax of a six-month shouting match over history and race.
New Orleans officials voted Thursday to remove four prominent monuments to the Confederacy, following months of impassioned debate and similar actions by other communities in the South. Some of the same people who stood to acknowledge the power of a symbol and to declare the nation indivisible later stood to argue that there is no power in Confederate symbols and to argue that those who tested the nation’s indivisibility deserve continuing hero status. 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.” Mayor Mitch Landrieu first proposed removing the monuments after a white supremacist killed nine African-American parishioners inside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June, and quickly signed the monument removal ordinance into law.
Thompson termed the council’s decision “disappointing,” and “stupid.” “I think unfortunately a lot of people are still in the mindset that they’re slaves, and it’s sad, because they’re not,” Thompson said. “They’ve been free people for a long time. 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) The Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Monumental Task Committee and Beauregard Camp No. 130 on Thursday challenged the City Council’s vote to remove the structures and Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s approval of the ordinance. Anti-Confederate sentiment has grown since then around the country, along with protests against police mistreatment of black youth, as embodied by the Black Lives Matter movement.
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. Brousse said the anti-monument crowd was focusing on the wrong things, old statues instead of the real problems plaguing the city such as crime and a poor public education system. “Black people in the city of New Orleans don’t get the proper education,” he said. “They’ll go buy a money order rather than have a bank account. Beauregard at the entrance of City Park, the statue to Jefferson Davis near the corner of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway and the monument at the end of Iberville Street honoring the Battle of Liberty Place.
His administration said it would cost $170,000 to take the monuments down and put them in a warehouse until a new location is found for them — perhaps in a museum. “With this vote, New Orleans will no longer glorify the worst of our history, and can move forward on the path toward meaningful unity,” the ACLU statement said. The gulf between those who see the monuments as symbols of racism and oppression, and those who see them as vital historical markers honoring the fallen soldiers of the Old South, was never more apparent than during the three hours of debate leading up to the council vote. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and an 1891 obelisk honoring the Crescent City White League, which challenged Louisiana’s biracial government after the Civil War. 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.
It’s driving a wedge that wasn’t there between the citizens of the city.” Yet Jack Wittenbrink, 42, said it’s the ideas behind the statues that created the wedge and ensure the wedge would live on. “Monuments cement the ruler ship of kings and glorify gods and the deeds of great men. They don’t document history; they editorialize,” Wittenbrink said. “I think everybody who lives in this city knows what those statues mean with the possible exceptions of people who are so isolated by their own privilege that they never thought about it. Lee is located at Lee’s Circle, a prominent position in the city’s layout and typically on the Mardi Gras parade route, according to the New Orleans Historical Society.
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. That he was having to ask that such obviously meanspirited monuments be removed seemed to sicken – he used the word embarrass – him in the same way. Landrieu says a commission should be established to consider creating a park where the city’s history — and the removed monuments — can be explained. Divergent views on what should happen to Confederate monuments in New Orleans are being voiced at a lively, and sometimes disorderly, city council 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.
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