The Ongoing Battle of the Confederate Monuments: an Update

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The battle over the Confederate monuments in New Orleans is still ongoing and for now, the monuments aren’t going anywhere.

I began following this story back in December when Governor Mitch Landrieu garnered enough support from the City Council to remove the monuments.  The move was met with outrage from most of the citizens of the city and protests began. Landrieu’s stand is that the monuments create racial division in the city and need to go, a claim he is hard pressed to defend.  Opponents to the monument removal agree that crime in NOLA is at an all-time high but contend that the monuments themselves have nothing to do with that. They are interested in preserving the culture and history of the city and have taken to the courts to protect the monuments.

The issue hits home to me because I have ancestors that fought for the Confederacy and despite our national feelings on the tragedy of the Civil War, the lives of my ancestors mattered.

With Louisiana in a financial meltdown right now, this would seem a trivial issue, yet legislators are still offering bills to protect these monuments, and each one gets shot down. The most recent was sponsored by state Representative Thomas Carmody; his bill would have made it impossible to remove Confederate statues, symbols and names from public buildings without permission from a newly created state board. The bill is still in limbo as the committee voted (along racial lines) neither to kill the bill nor act on it.  Rep. Carmody is still looking for a way to get it before the House for a full vote.

The case against monument removal is currently before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal:

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal issued an order Friday morning (March 25) that prevents the city of New Orleans from taking down Confederate monuments while a lawsuit challenging its ability to do so makes its way through court.

U.S District Judge Carl Barbier had previously rejected a request to block city action while a federal lawsuit was being considered. The Monumental Task Committee, the Louisiana Landmarks Society, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana and Beauregard Camp No. 130 maintain the city violated the U.S. and Louisiana constitutions when it declared three Confederate statues — of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard — were public nuisances.

This could drag on for a while.  Meanwhile, Landrieu can’t move the monuments and he can’t find a contractor that will take the job.

New Orleans is not the only city grappling with this problem.   It’s a controversy that has been going on for decades but after Dylann Roof killed nine people in South Carolina, the issue has taken center stage. Earlier this year, a special commission in Baltimore voted to remove two Confederate monuments and add historical context to two others.

And while cities across the south continue to battle this issue, one group is building a Confederate monument:

“…the Sons of Confederate Veterans are now nearing completion on a monument to their ancestors just off I-10, just this side of the Sabine and the Louisiana border.

Situated at the corner of I-10 and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, “The Confederate Memorial of the Wind” will feature a walkway lined by the Confederate battle flag and those of several dozen (the count varies in every article) Texas regiments leading up to a circular monument composed of 13 columns honoring each of the Confederate states.”

In this case, the monument is going up on private property purchased by the Sons of  Confederate Veterans for $9,000.  Indeed, perhaps the only compromise in this monumental battle across the nation will be for groups to install these monuments on private lands.  But meanwhile, NOLA still fights.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.