By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — We are deep in the throes of Mardi Gras season in Louisiana, that weeks-long bacchanalian festival with parades through the streets, brightly decorated and lit floats blaring deafening music, costumed float riders throwing beads, medallions, shoes, stuffed animals, coconuts, CDs, packages of Ramen noodles, even hot dogs. You name it, someone on a float will be throwing it.
One thing some float riders will not be throwing this year is the Forever Lee Circle beads. The medallion on the strand depicts Robert E. Lee standing atop his pedestal against a clear blue sky, and the words Forever Lee Circle.
You might recall my heavy “monument blogging” last year as New Orleans erupted into protests, marches, and stakeouts as the Mitch Landrieu administration swept through in the dark of night to remove Confederate monuments from the city. Apparently, emotions are still running high.
From The Advocate:
The Krewe of Muses has taken a stand against Confederate-themed parade throws, banning its members from throwing Robert E. Lee beads — or any other items with a political message — in its upcoming parade.
The Krewe of Orpheus has also told members not to toss the Lee beads and its captain said any riders who bring them will be asked to remove them from the floats. And the Krewe of Endymion is also suggesting riders not bring the controversial throws.
According to a memo sent to the Muses’ float lieutenants, besides the throws being deemed inappropriate, the Lee-themed beads — which have garnered attention on social media — are also dangerous. The memo says the krewe is concerned people who would throw those beads could have them hurled back at them or the person throwing them could be harmed by angry paradegoers.
The Hayride, a popular Louisiana blog, calls bull on the political message warning:
Now, some people are using the city ordinance cited above by the Advocate in support of the idea that “political” beads are already illegal and thus restricting the Lee beads is simply following the law. However, to my knowledge, the ordinance in question has never been enforced — and indeed political throws have been commonplace. This stands to reason, because the ordinance appears plainly unconstitutional, and is thus a mere fig leaf for krewes’ efforts to regulate throws.
Meanwhile, the beads are showing up on eBay for up to $50 a strand! And selling!
The owner of the Forever Lee Circle Facebook page issued this statement:
The making of this bead was and will be cathartic for so many in our community. Throwing this bead is nothing more than giving our iconic landmark a proper send off. Parade after parade it will serve as one big second line. A simple way to express our loss and remember all the good times we shared during Mardi Gras at Lee Circle. It’s about giving an outlet to those feeling a sense of loss. Having lost four of the cities most Iconic Historical Monuments, that had been part of the New Orleans landscape for over 100 years has been unimaginable for a lot of people. I have felt a lot of push back by people trying to attach their irrational fear, anxieties and hatred over the monuments to this bead and I’m not inclined to let others fears lay claim to my motives. I challenge anyone to find hate in my heart.
The group has joined the eBay fray and placed one of the beads up for auction with all proceeds going to their Lee Monument Association fund.
The major parades will be this coming weekend in New Orleans; we will be in suspense until then to see if the krewe members comply with the edicts of the krewe bosses or if they go rogue and throw their Robert E. Lees.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.