By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — In the continuing saga over the New Orleans Confederate monuments, word leaked out late last week that Mayor Mitch Landrieu was planning to begin monument removal in the dead of night before the Easter holiday weekend.
Sources within the New Orleans police department confirmed to The Hayride blog that there were plans in place to begin removal of two monuments at 1:00 a.m. Thursday morning. But, once word leaked out the plans were abandoned. Landrieu’s office at first denied the claims, then acknowledged them.
With the Louisiana legislature now in session, and with several bills in play to preserve the monuments, Landrieu’s office is likely feeling some pressure to get them down quickly.
Meanwhile, a feud has erupted between The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s flagship newspaper, and one grassroots preservation group, Save Our Circle. The Advocate has reported that the Save Our Circle members are threatening the contractor hired to remove the monuments, a fact the SoS members deny. Save Our Circle has an active Facebook page with over 13,000 members and while not all members live in New Orleans, all do have an interest in preserving the historical monuments.
When interviewed about the threats, a spokesman for Save our Circle, George Peterson, explained that their Facebook group is a peaceful one and that moderators try to block or remove any posts or comments that reflect otherwise. At the same time Peterson pointed out threats made by the Take ‘Em Down NOLA group which seem to rise far and above anything Save Our Circle members tolerate from their members:
Peterson insisted the Save Our Circle group is peaceful and that it is supporters of taking down the monuments who pose truly violent threats. He pointed to a tire that was set on fire at Confederate Memorial Hall near Lee Circle after Donald Trump’s presidential election and to threats by Take ‘Em Down NOLA — a group pushing for the removal of the four monuments and other statues honoring slaveholders — to drag the statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square off its pedestal.
In addition, he said that some of those who showed up at a September protest at the Jackson statue wore masks and carried anarchist flags, and he noted that the monuments have repeatedly been vandalized with graffiti calling for their removal and some more violent messages such as “Die whites die.”
“I implore you to utilize the powers bestowed upon the Office of the President in the Antiquities Act, passed by Congress in 1906, which granted you the authority to declare by public proclamation, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic significance as national monuments,” Nungesser wrote to Trump, according to WWL-TV.
With Landrieu now having made clear he has no qualms about moving in the dead of night to remove the monuments, everyone is now on high alert. Legislators are getting slammed with emails and phone calls from all over the country to support the preservation bills.
Regardless of how one feels about the Confederacy or about monuments in general, the bigger issue is the slippery slope this argument represents. The ever present “What is next?” question looms. Some are now even calling for removal of lamp posts in NOLA.
Where does it stop?
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.