Report From Louisiana: Update on the Confederate Monument Removal Controversy

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Report From Louisiana: Update on the Confederate Monument Removal Controversy

By: Pat Austincen

[cap­tion id=“attachment_80769” align=“alignleft” width=“300”]general-beauregard-statue-removed P.G.T. Beau­re­gard monument[/caption]

SHREVE­PORT – I wrote in this space a few weeks ago about the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the removal of four Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments in New Orleans. To recap briefly, Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu (brother of “Kat­rina Mary” Lan­drieu) has orga­nized the removal of mon­u­ments com­mem­o­rat­ing P.G.T. Beau­re­gard, Robert E. Lee, Jef­fer­son Davis, and Lib­erty Mon­u­ment. The Times-​Picayune has pho­tos and descrip­tions of each mon­u­ment here. In the place of the Jef­fer­son Davis mon­u­ment, Mayor Lan­drieu would also like to rename Jef­fer­son Davis Park­way in honor of a retired Xavier Uni­ver­sity president.

The City Coun­cil voted 61 in sup­port of the mon­u­ment removal despite pub­lic out­cry from a major­ity of the NOLA cit­i­zens and local preser­va­tion­ists. Imme­di­ately after the Council’s vote, a fed­eral law­suit was filed to pre­vent removal despite the fact that Mayor Lan­drieu already had con­trac­tors in place to begin removal immediately.

So where are we today? The case is gar­ner­ing national atten­tion and has been cov­ered by The New York Times, the New York Post, and The Atlantic as well as attract­ing the atten­tion of blog­gers through­out the country.

Last week preser­va­tion­ists made their case in court:

Dur­ing the two hour and 30-​minute hear­ing, U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Carl Bar­bier heard argu­ments after sev­eral plain­tiffs, includ­ing the Mon­u­men­tal Task Force, went to court to block the city’s plan to remove four Con­fed­er­ate monuments.

Preser­va­tion­ists are look­ing for an injunc­tion, stop­ping the city from remov­ing the stat­ues of Robert E. Lee, P.T.G. Beau­re­gard, Jef­fer­son Davis and the Lib­erty Place mon­u­ment, which city attor­neys called “mon­u­ments to white supremacy” dur­ing the hearing.

It looked to me like the city was on stronger ground,” said Don­ald “Chick” Foret, WWL-​TV legal ana­lyst. “The preser­va­tion­ists are on very weak ground. They don’t have any law, they don’t have any evi­dence. The judge was search­ing try­ing to find some juris­dic­tion. To get into this build­ing, you’ve got to have fed­eral juris­dic­tion, some fed­eral law that applies, and the judge said he just didn’t see it.”

If the judge does in fact toss the law­suit, the only recourse preser­va­tion­ists will have will be in state court, an avenue they will cer­tainly pur­sue. Mean­while, Landrieu’s crews are out tak­ing mea­sure­ments and prepar­ing to go ahead with removal once the injunc­tion pre­vent­ing that is lifted.

Lan­drieu will have to find a new com­pany to do the removal, how­ever, as the first crew he hired has walked off the job after hav­ing received death threats.

Yes­ter­day, a small group of pro­tes­tors was at the Beau­re­gard statue mak­ing their case; pho­tog­ra­phers and tourists are snap­ping pho­tos of the mon­u­ments in their right­ful set­ting before they are removed.

My ques­tion is this: where does this stop? On a national level, where does this stop? If the case is, as the city attor­ney says, that these are “mon­u­ments to white supremacy,” are the old plan­ta­tions next?

I’m really try­ing to see both sides of this but as a stu­dent of his­tory I just can’t see it in this case; I find it extremely dif­fi­cult to believe that some­one walked by the statue of Beau­re­gard one day and said, “Damn, I’m really offended by that.” Some­one, at some point, decided we should all be offended and so here we are.

The South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter filed an ami­cus brief in sup­port of the mon­u­ment removal, again cit­ing the white supremacy argu­ment. The SPLC is an orga­ni­za­tion that preaches tol­er­ance, some­thing they seem to be short on in this case.

Per­haps we need these stat­ues to remem­ber what hap­pens to a coun­try when dif­fer­ing opin­ions and per­cep­tions tear us apart.

Per­haps we all need to prac­tice a lit­tle tolerance.

It’s always impor­tant to fol­low the money. Lan­drieu has said that the city of NOLA will not be pay­ing for the removal, that this won’t cost the city one dime, how­ever, the iden­tity of his bene­fac­tor is a secret. Who is pay­ing for this?

An anony­mous donor has agreed to foot the bill for the removal of four Confederate-​related stat­ues, the city announced in a let­ter this week to the New Orleans City Council.

It will cost an esti­mated $144,000 to remove and trans­port the stat­ues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beau­re­gard and Jef­fer­son Davis, as well as a mon­u­ment to the Bat­tle of Lib­erty Place, accord­ing to the let­ter. The donor agreed to pay for the entire operation.

The slippery-​slope aspect of the whole oper­a­tion con­cerns me. Just because some aspects of our his­tory are ugly and unpleas­ant, we can’t erase them. We are to learn from them; we are to honor the sac­ri­fices of our ances­tors what­ever they were, and we are to always remem­ber. If we san­i­tize and attempt to erase his­tory we are greatly dimin­ish­ing our abil­ity to learn from it.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port.

By: Pat Austincen

general-beauregard-statue-removed
P.G.T. Beauregard monument

SHREVEPORT – I wrote in this space a few weeks ago about the controversy surrounding the removal of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans.  To recap briefly, Mayor Mitch Landrieu (brother of “Katrina Mary” Landrieu) has organized the removal of monuments commemorating P.G.T. Beauregard, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Liberty Monument. The Times-Picayune has photos and descriptions of each monument here. In the place of the Jefferson Davis monument, Mayor Landrieu would also like to rename Jefferson Davis Parkway in honor of a retired Xavier University president.

The City Council voted 6-1 in support of the monument removal despite public outcry from a majority of the NOLA citizens and local preservationists.  Immediately after the Council’s vote, a federal lawsuit was filed to prevent removal despite the fact that Mayor Landrieu already had contractors in place to begin removal immediately.

So where are we today? The case is garnering national attention and has been covered by The New York Times, the New York Post, and The Atlantic as well as attracting the attention of bloggers throughout the country.

Last week preservationists made their case in court:

During the two hour and 30-minute hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier heard arguments after several plaintiffs, including the Monumental Task Force, went to court to block the city’s plan to remove four Confederate monuments.

Preservationists are looking for an injunction, stopping the city from removing the statues of Robert E. Lee, P.T.G. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and the Liberty Place monument, which city attorneys called “monuments to white supremacy” during the hearing.

“It looked to me like the city was on stronger ground,” said Donald “Chick” Foret, WWL-TV legal analyst. “The preservationists are on very weak ground. They don’t have any law, they don’t have any evidence. The judge was searching trying to find some jurisdiction. To get into this building, you’ve got to have federal jurisdiction, some federal law that applies, and the judge said he just didn’t see it.”

If the judge does in fact toss the lawsuit, the only recourse preservationists will have will be in state court, an avenue they will certainly pursue.  Meanwhile, Landrieu’s crews are out taking measurements and preparing to go ahead with removal once the injunction preventing that is lifted.

Landrieu will have to find a new company to do the removal, however, as the first crew he hired has walked off the job after having received death threats.

Yesterday, a small group of protestors was at the Beauregard statue making their case; photographers and tourists are snapping photos of the monuments in their rightful setting before they are removed.

My question is this: where does this stop? On a national level, where does this stop?  If the case is, as the city attorney says, that these are “monuments to white supremacy,” are the old plantations next?

I’m really trying to see both sides of this but as a student of history I just can’t see it in this case; I find it extremely difficult to believe that someone walked by the statue of Beauregard one day and said, “Damn, I’m really offended by that.”  Someone, at some point, decided we should all be offended and so here we are.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed an amicus brief in support of the monument removal, again citing the white supremacy argument. The SPLC is an organization that preaches tolerance, something they seem to be short on in this case.

Perhaps we need these statues to remember what happens to a country when differing opinions and perceptions tear us apart.

Perhaps we all need to practice a little tolerance.

It’s always important to follow the money. Landrieu has said that the city of NOLA will not be paying for the removal, that this won’t cost the city one dime, however, the identity of his benefactor is a secret.  Who is paying for this?

An anonymous donor has agreed to foot the bill for the removal of four Confederate-related statues, the city announced in a letter this week to the New Orleans City Council.

It will cost an estimated $144,000 to remove and transport the statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, as well as a monument to the Battle of Liberty Place, according to the letter. The donor agreed to pay for the entire operation.

The slippery-slope aspect of the whole operation concerns me. Just because some aspects of our history are ugly and unpleasant, we can’t erase them. We are to learn from them; we are to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors whatever they were, and we are to always remember. If we sanitize and attempt to erase history we are greatly diminishing our ability to learn from it.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.