By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Now that Mitch Landrieu has removed four Confederate era monuments in New Orleans, supposedly we can expect two things as stated by the mayor himself:

  1. Crime will drop and the city will unify.
  2. New Orleans population will swell to pre-Katrina numbers.

Over the past few weeks Landrieu has used the city’s firefighters and police force to work, masked and in the dark of night, to remove these four landmarks which are now in an unsecured maintenance trash yard in NOLA.

Some reflections on this entire ordeal:

The citizens of New Orleans never got to vote on this. A city council vote of 6-1 sealed the fate of the monuments.

Various local media polls in New Orleans showed a majority supported leaving the monuments in place. The monument opponents, however, were more vocal.

Mitch Landrieu credits former NOLA resident Wynton Marsalis with the impetus to remove the monuments. Marsalis, who lives in New York, penned an OpEd for the Times-Picayune in December 2015 in which he stated:

“When one surveys the accomplishments of our local heroes across time from Iberville and Bienville, to Andrew Jackson, from Mahalia Jackson, to Anne Rice and Fats Domino, from Wendell Pierce, to John Besh and Jonathan Batiste, what did Robert E. Lee do to merit his distinguished position? He fought for the enslavement of a people against our national army fighting for their freedom; killed more Americans than any opposing general in history; made no attempt to defend or protect this city; and even more absurdly, he never even set foot in Louisiana.”

The statement about Lee never setting foot in New Orleans is patently false as Robert E. Lee was stationed at Jackson Barracks and was in the city numerous times over several years.

Mitch Landrieu has displayed an astounding lack of transparency on the removal process. Landrieu promised the courts that qualified contractors would be used in removal. This was a lie. Landrieu used city firefighters to remove the monuments and live feeds of the removal of each monument was evidence enough of their ineptness and inexperience with removal of priceless works of public art as the statues twirled perilously at the end of straps rigged around them supported by bubble wrap and while removal cranes burned rubber trying to get closer to their targets and leaked hydraulic fluid everywhere.

In his victory speech last week, Landrieu claimed that the monuments caused a great exodus from the city:

“I will say this for the people that are interested in the costs. The cultural, economic, and spiritual loss to the city for having those statues up that have run people out of the city. The great migration that sent some of our best and brightest to place across the country that we don’t have the benefit of has been incredible.” said Landrieu.

It’s as if it never crossed his mind that high crime, pot-hole ridden streets, corrupt government, failing schools, no jobs, and high taxes might be a contributing factor to the problems in New Orleans.

In truth, Hurricane Katrina caused the population exodus and the city’s population has been on a steady climb back to pre-Katrina numbers ever since.

As we reflect over the travesty of the Landrieu administration, one has to consider his motives in all of this. There have been rumors of a job offer from Al Sharpton for Landrieu, there have been rumors of the mayor having national political ambitions, and there have been rumors of motivations in Landrieu’s personal life for removal of these monuments.

Water under the bridge.

What is left in the wake of all this is a once beautiful city now more racially divided than ever. A city that came together in unity after Hurricane Katrina that is now ripped and torn at the seams. A city with a crime rate that makes it the most dangerous city in the country.

As I have documented this story on this blog through the past months, it has been with the purpose to acknowledge that this can happen in any city in any state in the country. As a people we must find a way to live together and to reconcile ourselves with our differing opinions and perspectives. States all across the South are struggling with this Civil War monument issue – some choosing to protect their monuments and some not. Some choose to add other monuments to appease the opponents (they call it ”balancing the story” but it is appeasement). Some choose to add “interpretive plaques” that retell the story in a more politically correct light.

The ignorance of our society, and the willingness to too many to avoid the study of history, is where this emanates from. Had Mitch Landrieu done one iota of research, for example, he would have known that Robert E. Lee had been in New Orleans. That was never the point.

Landrieu’s point was to “correct history,” as he told TIME magazine.  Now that’s a monumental ego for you.

As for the crime issue, the city has 76 murders this year so far, well above the rate last year.  And on Saturday night, for example, with all four monuments now gone, the shootings and violence continue. Two men were shot in downtown New Orleans Saturday night and another stabbed with a screwdriver.

Thank goodness the city is unified now.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Another week, another Confederate era monument gone.  In the early morning hours Thursday morning, the twenty-five foot bronze statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was ripped from its granite pedestal by city crews (which one again included city firefighters) hiding behind masks as monument supporters who had stood vigil all night long quietly sang “Dixie.” Some stood and solemnly saluted the desecrated statue of Davis as the statue was lowered onto a rented flatbed truck..

Crews gathered around the statue just after midnight, partially wrapped the statue’s mid-section in green bubble wrap, tied a thick yellow strap around the torso, and lifted the statue, Davis’s arm pointing at both demonstrators and supporters as the statue twirled in mid-air.  A makeshift crate was placed around Davis and crews lowered the statue onto the back of a flatbed truck and hauled it off to an undisclosed warehouse.

The pedestal is another matter – it took the untrained city contractors several more hours to figure out how to remove the heavy granite pedestal which sat most of the morning with a limp strap around it while engineers phoned into television stations warning that if it was lifted it would probably tip the truck over. It is as if Jefferson Davis himself was mocking them, declaring his right to be there as the inscription on the pedestal reads, “His name is enshrined in the hearts of the people for whom he suffered, and his deeds are forever wedded to immortality.”

Arlene Barnum was there. She came to New Orleans as soon as Mayor Landrieu had Liberty Place monument removed three weeks ago; she’s been standing guard at the Jefferson Davis monument day in and day out with a growing crowd of supporters. Arlene is a 63-year old black woman from Oklahoma, an Army veteran, and a woman with Confederate ancestors from north Louisiana. She felt that as “the one and only president of the Confederacy,” she was obligated to stand with Davis. As she stood at the monument, Arlene has been called a variety of racial slurs: “Aunt Jemima” seems to have been the most offensive to her. Her truck tires were slashed, her cell phone was knocked from her hand as she tried to live stream, and she has gone without much sleep.

Arlene has been dubbed “General Arlene” by some of the other monument supporters standing guard with her, and they have followed her lead. She has encouraged peaceful protest and non-violence.  “Fly those flags high,” she would shout, “Keep ‘em up! Don’t let that flag touch the ground!” Pastor Larry Beane from Salem Lutheran Church led the crowd in a prayer service before the city workers came to dismantle the monument.

Mitch Landrieu spent the evening hobnobbing with donors at the home of Mary Matalin and James Carville for Mitch Landrieu’s NOLA Pac.

Thursday morning Landrieu issued a statement:

After nearly two years of planning and court battles, City officials began the process today of removing the three remaining monuments that prominently celebrate the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” The statues that are being removed were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the “Cult of the Lost Cause,” a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy.

There are four prominent monuments in question. The Battle of Liberty Place monument, which was removed three weeks ago, was erected by the Crescent City White League to remember the deadly insurrection led by white supremacists against the City’s racially integrated police department and government. The statue coming down today is the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway. The statues slated to come down next include the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle and the P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue on Esplanade Avenue at the entrance to City Park.

“Three weeks ago, we began a challenging but long overdue process of removing four statues that honor the ‘Lost Cause of the Confederacy.’ Today we continue the mission,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “These monuments have stood not as historic or educational markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in celebration of it. I believe we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it. To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in some of our most prominent public places is not only an inaccurate reflection of our past, it is an affront to our present, and a bad prescription for our future. We should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past.”

There is much about this statement that I personally find disturbing. Mayor Landrieu shows his gross gap of historical knowledge and research when he contends that the monument were erected to celebrate and promote white supremacy. That could not be more wrong.

The majority of the Confederate era monuments across the South were funded by memorial associations and by the Daughters of the Confederacy to honor their war dead. They wanted to honor the sons and husbands that would never come home, many of whom were buried in places unknown. Additionally, the monuments were intended to be instructional and to serve as historical reminders of that war, to teach future generations. For Landrieu to slant their intent in such a way is flatly irresponsible.

Landrieu’s statement goes on to say that “we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it.” Who is he to tell us what we can and can not revere? Who made him the moral judge of society?

And when he calls the Confederacy “an inaccurate reflection of our past,” what is he saying about my ancestors that fought in that war? About the thousands of other men and boys who fought in that war on both sides?

Finally, when Landrieu says, “we should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past,” let me just suggest that he is MOST afraid of it or he wouldn’t have our past crated up in the dark of night and hauled off to some undisclosed warehouse.

Rumors are that he will sell the monuments to Whitney Plantation where they will be mocked and derided as relics of men who defended slavery. So much for presenting an accurate representation of history.

Still to come down in New Orleans is the P.G.T. Beauregard monument and the Robert E. Lee monument. The protests and violence will continue, and the rift between groups grows wider.

As New Orleans scrapes away everything that once made it unique and historic, it will soon become just like any other city in America and there will be no reason to go visit. It is being turned over to the Antifa liberals and now has a higher homicide rate than Chicago, but please, let’s worry about monuments instead.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT –  If Hurricane Katrina united New Orleans in the common cause of “love thy neighbor,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu has successfully decimated all remnants of civility and has created a cultural divide that has ripped the city apart and has cast New Orleans in a negative light in the eyes of the national lens.

As Landrieu continues to staunchly defend his decision to remove the city’s Confederate monuments, supporters (both black and white) have taken positions days and night at the monuments to protect them. Two weeks ago Landrieu removed one of the four, the Liberty Place monument, in the dead of night using a team of city firefighters wearing masks and protective armor.

Even as monument supporters had a large measure of victory this week with the passage of HB71 from committee, tension about the monuments rose. This bill would presumably protect the monuments:

House Bill 71 would forbid the removal, renaming or alteration of any military monument of any war, including the “War Between the States,” that is situated on public property. The measure was amended to require the support of a majority of voters in a public election before any monuments could be removed.

Mayor Landrieu is not working fast enough for Take ‘Em Down NOLA and the Antifa crowd, and they announced a rally in New Orleans to take place Sunday, May 7:

TAKE EM DOWN NOLA CALLS FOR PEOPLES CELEBRATION & SECOND LINE TO BURY WHITE SUPREMACY

While white supremacists gather from many states around confederate monuments in OUR CITY, the mayor nor council has still not publicly called for its own ceremony to honor the historic occasion of 4 monuments to slavery coming down. Even the conservative governor of S.C. had a public ceremony to remove the confederate flag.

Cowering in darkness offers no safety or protection, it is shameful and being questioned by world wide media.

What does this say to Black youth? What does this teach white youth?

All eyes are on New Orleans. It is fitting that during Jazz Fest the people have our voices heard. Not just on the monuments, but for racial equality and economic justice for those who built New Orleans, whose heritage is leveraged for profit and who are being displaced.

In the name of the good people of New Orleans, in honor of our civil rights veterans who fought for decades for their removal, in appreciation of the Black community, elders and youth Take Em Down NOLA is issuing this call for everyone to come out!

Meet at Congo Square at 1:30pm.

March to Lee Circle.

Make History! Take down Robert E. Lee and ALL symbols of White Supremacy!

By noon Sunday protesters were gathering on both sides. Monument supporters were getting information and security, how to handle pepper spray attacks, and cautionary information about Antifa. New Orleans police began installing barricades around Lee Circle; the Jefferson Davis monument has been blocked off all week after violent clashes last weekend between both sides.

Large black busses with blacked out windows were moving into the city in the morning filled with Antifa protestors.

But, through the day, for the most part things remained non-violent. Tense, but non-violent. There were a couple of fights and skirmishes that were quickly put down, but by early evening crowds had dispersed and traffic lanes were reopened.

The focus then moved to the Jefferson Davis monument where reports were that a large Antifa group was congregating to harass supporters there. But other than the exchange of hot words, everything was calm.

Overall, thankfully the protests did not end in the free-for-all that was anticipated but what did come out of it all was a clarification that contrary to Governor John Bel Edwards’s stance that the monuments “are a local issue,” clearly it has surpassed that. Mitch Landrieu made it NOT a local issue when he called in State and Federal Law Enforcement from all over the state to New Orleans using Department of Homeland Security emergency measures. This makes is a national issue, being paid for with state and federal tax dollars.

And this means John Bel Edwards now has to get off the fence.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Arlene Barnum is a 63-year old Army veteran, a black woman, and is on the front lines in New Orleans standing guard at the Jefferson Davis monument.

Arlene lives in Sulpher, Oklahoma but had been in north Louisiana in the small community of Keachi in DeSoto parish to attend an annual Confederate memorial service where her ancestors who fought for the Confederacy are buried. Arlene attends the ceremony every year and maintains her family’s graves there. She was raised in north Louisiana and takes great pride in her Confederate ancestry.

The day after the memorial service Mitch Landrieu removed one of the four targeted Confederate monuments in New Orleans in the dead of night, using firefighters working undercover, behind masks and flak jackets.  Arlene decided to drive to NOLA rather than return to Oklahoma and there she has been, standing guard every night at the feet of Jefferson Davis.  There has been a growing crowd around her each night of fellow supporters, most of them with the various flags of the Confederacy, including the much maligned battle flag.

No stranger to racial violence, Arlene live streams her vigil every night. She has now posted hours of video on Facebook. She doesn’t engage those that attempt to challenge her or debate her right to defend the monument.  “They don’t care about education,” she says. “They come up to me and ask me to tell them about the Confederacy, I tell them to look it up. They don’t care what I have to say.” She just wants to stand guard peacefully.

Yet Saturday night things got heated. Saturday night a millennial liberal assaulted Arlene, hurling racial insults at her and then swatting Arlene’s phone to the ground. It was all captured on video. Arlene has filed a police report and obviously there are excellent pictures of the woman, but will she be found? Will the police even look for her?

Also on video from Saturday night are New Orleans police officers called to the scene who said they have been told to “stand down” by the mayor’s office. They are not to enforce peace at these demonstrations that are now ripping New Orleans apart. They are not to act. While Arlene Barnum did insist they make a report on her assault, it is doubtful much will come of it.

Mayor Landrieu has come under fire in the past few days by the firefighter’s union who object to his using firefighters to do his dirty work.

“The bottom line is with these Confederate monuments, it’s not really something we deal with as firefighters,” New Orleans Fire Fighters Associations President Nick Felton said, addressing reporters after almost an hour inside City Hall speaking with Landrieu’s team. “We should not be in riot gear. We should not be doing police-type work and we are absolutely concerned, you know, that that type of thing is going on.”

Members of the New Orleans Fire Department gathered for a rally Saturday and announced a vote of no confidence in their fire chief.

During the lengthy litigation as the monument issue made its way through the court system, all the way to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Landrieu assured the courts that monument removal would be done safely by contractors trained in monument removal. Obviously this was not the case.

Landrieu had only one contractor submit a bid to remove the monuments and it was far and above the money he had collected “from private donations” to fund removal, so apparently he decided to use city resources.  He is now using a private non-profit group (exempt from public scrutiny) to fund removal.

Landrieu’s decision to have police officers stand down is a clear attempt to further his cause to remove these monuments to history. He has stated that the monuments are “nuisances” and contribute to the racial divide in the city. If there are now protests, violence, and assaults of 63-year old women, this serves to support his position. Arlene Barnum is smart enough to know that engaging the opposing side only supports Landrieu and provokes more heated confrontations and she has tried to protest quietly and without conflict.

Monument supporters standing guard at the P.G.T. Beauregard monument have been assaulted with paintball guns, had bottles and rocks thrown at them, and endure a barrage of verbal insults. Still the police stand down.  Like Arlene Barnum, Andrew Duncomb, (aka The Black Rebel), streams live on Facebook from his position at Beauregard. Duncomb is less reticent than Arlene Barnum in verbal engagement and things at Beauregard have been heated as well.

It seems at this point Mayor Landrieu has been successful in removing one of his four targeted monuments, created a terrible racial divide in an already troubled city, compromised the position of the New Orleans Fire Department, and probably broken a few laws in having them remove Liberty Place monument, and he has created an ocean of ill will.

The intensity escalates and we can only wait to see what the coming days will bring. We can only hope that there are no more physical attacks on people like Arlene Barnum who are peacefully executing their rights to free speech.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport

Previous Posts at DaTechGuy blog:
Mitch Landrieu Begins his Plan to Erase History in NOLA (4/24/17)
Mayor Landrieu’s Plans to Remove Monuments in the Dead of Night Exposed (4/17/2017)
The Slippery Slope is Now Open (3/27/17)
A Disappointing Ruling from the 5th Circuit (3/13/17)
Still Fighting the Civil War (2/5/17)
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Solution to 172 Murders: Equity Circles (12/26/16)
Removal of Historic Confederate Monuments in New Orleans Thwarted — For Now (12/21/2015)
Report from Louisiana: Update on the Confederate Monument Removal Controversy (1/18/2016)
The Lives of My Ancestors Mattered Too (2/1/2016)
The Ongoing Battle of the Confederate Monuments: An Update (4/18/2016)
Confederate Monuments and Unintended Consequences (6/27/16)
Report from Louisiana: Revisionist History and Confederate Monuments (9/19/2016)
Report from Louisiana: Mass Shooting in New Orleans While Landrieu Fiddles (11/28/2016)


Previous Posts on And So it Goes in Shreveport:

List of Offensive Monuments, Streets, Names in NOLA …is Puzzling (4/23/17)
Confederate Monument Removal Scheduled for 1:00 a.m. Monday (4/22/17)
The Confederate Battle Flag Rises Again in South Carolina (2/6/17)
Can the Violence in NOLA be Alleviated with Equity Circles? (12/26/16)
Shreveport Work of Art Still Needs Funding for Restoration (10/22/16)
Can You Help Clio? Restoration Fundraiser is Now Underway (9/5/16)
Epperson Demands UDC Remove Confederate Monument Within the Year (7/6/16)
Epperson’s Continued Attack on the Confederate Monument (6/22/16)
Report from the Caddo Commission Meeting in Which Ken Epperson Blasts “Jake-Leg Bloggers” (6/9/16)
Caddo Parish Confederate Monument Under Attack (5/19/16)
Joseph Welsh Texada’s Life Mattered Too (1/31/16)
The Heartbreaking Removal of the New Orleans Confederate Monuments (1/17/16)

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT (327 miles from NOLA) –  We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know which one. As promised, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu began the process of removing historic monuments in the city  last night.

They came in the dead of night wearing body protection gear and masks; the license plates were removed from their trucks. The company name was covered with tape and cardboard. Snipers loomed nearby in a parking garage. Men in a cherry picker were lifted to the top of the monument and began the process of drilling into and dismantling in sections the Liberty Place monument.

Police kept the protestors behind barricades. “Where’s your work permit? As a citizen I want to see your work permit!” one man yelled.

Liberty Monument

The 35-foot granite obelisk was taken down in four sections, placed on the back of a flatbed truck, and taken away to some storage facility. All that remains now is a scarred block of concrete.

Landrieu promises that the other three targeted monuments, P.G.T. Beauregard monument, Jefferson Davis monument, and the towering Robert E. Lee monument in Lee Circle will come down “sooner rather than later,” in the next few days.

The Liberty Place monument was erected in 1891 to commemorate those killed during the Battle of Liberty Place which took place in 1874 between the hated Reconstructionists, or carpet-baggers,  and the old order of New Orleans who wanted their city back.  You can read about the battle and the history here, at least as long as Landrieu leaves the site there.

Landrieu says of the four targeted monuments, this one more than any other needed to come down because it honors white supremacy.  His opponents contend that this may have been a tragic time in our country’s history but people lost their lives there and this event was an important part of the city’s history. To erase it is criminal.

Monday morning, Landrieu said, “The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates diversity, inclusion and tolerance.”

One could argue that point, too.  He clearly is not showing tolerance for those who wish the monuments to remain. No vote was ever taken; the New Orleans citizenry never got to vote on this issue and polls indicate that 73% of the city want the monuments to remain.

With murders and shootings at an all time high in New Orleans, with streets almost impossible to navigate because of potholes, with a large homeless population whose needs are unmet, many question Landrieu’s priorities. Rather than building Equity Circles and taking down historic monuments, perhaps the city would be better served if he took care of those needs first.  Removing these monuments is creating a racial divide of epic proportions and will affect tourism as conventions are relocated and a rising call for a boycott grows.

This is not the end. Once Landrieu and his cronies who are instigating him, the hate group Take ‘Em Down NOLA, more sanitizing of history will come. TEDNola has an entire agenda laid out on their website of names in NOLA that they feel must be changed including Tulane University.

If you think this is just a problem for New Orleans, I would suggest you rethink that. Already many are comparing Landrieu’s actions to those of Isis in taking down cultural markers. The Facebook memes have already started and are scathing, including one of the Superdome flying a Nazi flag. This can happen to any monument, in any city, in any state if we don’t study history and learn from it.  To attempt to erase that history or to negate the lives of those who have gone before us is a grave error.

It is a sad day for those of us who believe in preservation.

There is a great timeline of last night events with excellent photos here.

 

Previous Posts at DaTechGuy blog:
Mayor Landrieu’s Plans to Remove Monuments in the Dead of Night Exposed (4/17/2017)
The Slippery Slope is Now Open (3/27/17)
A Disappointing Ruling from the 5th Circuit (3/13/17)
Still Fighting the Civil War (2/5/17)
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Solution to 172 Murders: Equity Circles (12/26/16)
Removal of Historic Confederate Monuments in New Orleans Thwarted — For Now (12/21/2015)
Report from Louisiana: Update on the Confederate Monument Removal Controversy (1/18/2016)
The Lives of My Ancestors Mattered Too (2/1/2016)
The Ongoing Battle of the Confederate Monuments: An Update (4/18/2016)
Confederate Monuments and Unintended Consequences (6/27/16)
Report from Louisiana: Revisionist History and Confederate Monuments (9/19/2016)
Report from Louisiana: Mass Shooting in New Orleans While Landrieu Fiddles (11/28/2016)


Previous Posts on And So it Goes in Shreveport:
The Confederate Battle Flag Rises Again in South Carolina (2/6/17)
Can the Violence in NOLA be Alleviated with Equity Circles? (12/26/16)
Shreveport Work of Art Still Needs Funding for Restoration (10/22/16)
Can You Help Clio? Restoration Fundraiser is Now Underway (9/5/16)
Epperson Demands UDC Remove Confederate Monument Within the Year (7/6/16)
Epperson’s Continued Attack on the Confederate Monument (6/22/16)
Report from the Caddo Commission Meeting in Which Ken Epperson Blasts “Jake-Leg Bloggers” (6/9/16)
Caddo Parish Confederate Monument Under Attack (5/19/16)
Joseph Welsh Texada’s Life Mattered Too (1/31/16)
The Heartbreaking Removal of the New Orleans Confederate Monuments (1/17/16)

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.”

Louisiana’s Lt. Governor, Billy Nungesser, opposes removal of the monuments, as does most of the New Orleans population, has appealed to President Trump to intervene:

“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.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The feud between Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Baton Rouge Representative Garrett Graves over the slow response of Louisiana in flood recovery efforts escalated last week when the Edwards camp accused Rep. Graves of spreading false information about the release of federal money given to the state.

Friday, Rep. Graves issued this statement:

Flood victims in need of assistance are waiting on the state government to act. The $1.65 billion that is available TODAY to the state of Louisiana for flood recovery will never be wired to a Louisiana-controlled account; that’s not how it works. It will stay at the HUD CFO Accounting Center in Fort Worth and the state will draw down the money as necessary.

The first step is for the State to upload its Action Plan to HUD’s software pictured in the screenshot. The reason it says $0 is because the state hasn’t uploaded its plan.

Once the state does upload the plan, the process will work like this:

Let’s say The Action Plan budgets $25 mm for drywall and the state needs to purchase $10 mm now.

The State submits a draw request for $10 mm and then the state gets paid within 72 hours. Now the state’s drywall budget is $15mm and so on…

The bottom line is that the state has known for more than 191 days (Sept. 28 is when Congress appropriated funds) that it would receive federal disaster money through the CDGB program, and should be ready to disburse those funds. They’re not ready.

Everything else you’re hearing is noise.

Louisiana is one of the most frequent users of DRGR. The state should be able to submit action plan in its sleep. Commissioner Dardenne is on the radio is saying it is being uploaded now – hurry up.

The spokesman for Governor Edwards, Richard Carbo, says  “Graves’ information is inaccurate and the federal government hasn’t yet released the money to the state to spend. The line of credit “has not yet been set up.”

Clearly, the government hasn’t released the money because the state has not submitted an action plan as required or hired a contractor to oversee rebuilding. Why haven’t they done that?

Meanwhile, as I reported last week, Louisianians are not waiting on the politicians.  The Cajun Navy worked alongside first responders when the floods happened in August 2016 to rescue people, pets, and property, and now the Cajun Relief Foundation is working through crowd funding to get people the financial help they need.

Be sure to read this scathing post from Scott McKay of The Hayride:

Nobody has made a full-on indictment of Edwards’ immediate response to the August floods, though he certainly wasn’t perfect – and it’s fair to say he got bailed out by the Cajun Navy, which filled in a lot of the gaps. But in the effort to get federal dollars into Louisiana to make flood recovery happen as quickly as possible, Edwards has been an unmitigated failure – and if Louisiana’s newspapers weren’t so nakedly partisan on his side the governor would have been thoroughly excoriated for it.

Hopefully the politicians can get their red tape untangled before the next flood hits.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  I wrote on this blog a couple of weeks ago about the excellent work the Cajun Relief Foundation is doing in helping Louisiana’s flood victims get back on their feet as the politicians dicker over who will oversee the $1.6 billion in federal relief dollars.  As of this date, none of that relief money has been disbursed to flood victims to help rebuild their gutted homes.

Cajun Relief Foundation now has their crowd-funding site set up to where you can donate everything from dish towels to stoves to those people who are trying to recover after the August 2016 floods.

Consider the case of flood victim Judy Hood:

[Judy] currently rents a mobile home near her Holden Residence. Her home has been family owned since the ’60’s. Although it was devastated by 4′ of flood water, she’s grateful to God for the safety of her elderly parents.

Upon her return home, she discovered that little was salvageable. Among her greatest losses were Bibles, yearbooks, photo albums, and industrial art furniture pieces designed by her brothers. After the flood, Judy discovered “cotton balls” in which a friend quickly revealed was mold. Staying in the home profoundly impacted her health. Judy is a cancer patient. Unable to eat for two weeks, her health declined and she fell ill with a bacterial infection. Although her health has improved, she remains on a breathing machine. Her home has been gutted and treated for mold; however, reconstruction has yet to begin. Judy has $15,000 in funds to complete the work. Her brother is eager to help, but without supplies, he’s concerned, as labor costs alone would quickly deplete the funds.

There is a list of items you can donate through the site to help Judy: she needs towels ($25), a dryer ($300), dishes ($50) all the way up to building supplies like sheetrock and insulation.

Another case being worked by Cajun Relief is that of Mr. Nate:

At 70 years old, disabled, diabetic and blind in one eye, due to a failed cataract surgery, he just took life as it came and enjoyed being with his neighbors. The great flood of August 2016 was unlike anything he’d ever seen before and turned his once relatively easy going life, upside down.

When the August storm hit the water began to rise quickly. A friend tried to get to Nataniel by truck, but the water was starting to come up into the truck cab. After parking a distance away on higher ground, Nathaniel’s friend was able to reach him and pull him to safety through waist deep water. For six months after the flood Nathaniel was displaced and stayed with his sister. Everything in his home was lost.

In spite of losing many of his neighbors who were displaced due to the overwhelming devastation, Nathaniel has kept is positive spirit. Even surviving with no stove, no hot water, and no refrigerator, he remains active in service to those around him.

He needs silverware ($30), a water heater ($700), refrigerator ($600), pots and pans ($60), etc.

There are many other cases on the Cajun Relief crowd-funding page.  If you can help any of these people rebuild their lives and make a donation, by all means do so. If you can’t, just sharing it on your social media can help.

Go here to read about the crowd-funding and about Cajun Relief Foundation. They’re doing the hard work of interviewing and documenting all of these flood victims and their needs.  A caseworker is assigned to each flood victim and that caseworker follows up on needs, talks to the person, ensures items get delivered to that victim, and serves as an advocate for that person’s needs.

The easy part is clicking the donate button.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Hello, slippery slope.  It didn’t take long for you to appear.

I’ve always noted that once the green light was given by the 5th Circuit to remove the New Orleans monuments that the slippery slope of further changes would break open. And so it has.

Read the list of names that activist group Take ‘Em Down NOLA wants changed because they celebrate white supremacy.

One is Touro Hospital.

Touro Hospital is named for Judah Touro, who was the son of Jewish immigrants and was born in Rhode Island. Touro fought in the Battle of 1812 and later worked in shipping, trade, and real estate. He lived a simple life and donated a lot of money across the country. In New Orleans one of his charitable works was to establish what would become Touro Hospital – the largest charity hospital in Louisiana.

But that’s racist, so it must go.

Tulane University must apparently change its name as well.

Why?  Because founder Paul Tulane donated large sums of money to the Confederate States of America.

Never mind that he gave large charitable donations to charities throughout New Orleans and that he worked to raise the quality of higher education in the city.

Most of the things on this list are absurd and I’d venture to say that 99.9% of the people in New Orleans don’t have one idea who Judah Touro was or who Lane Street is named for.  In fact, maybe we should quit calling the place in the road where one drives a “lane” – perhaps that too is racist.

There is still hope that some of this madness will end.  Two upcoming bills in the Louisiana Legislature may still protect these monuments and legacy names; similar bills have been successful in nearby states.

Even more bizarre is the fact that Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is the brainchild of this removal project, has no idea what will replace the monuments that come down nor how any new monument or art would be paid for:

This is perplexing because in every other instance when anyone wants to tear down a historic site or building, the proposed destroyer must have a plan in place for what will be replacing the historic site and why it is justifiable. A year a and a half later, the City Council has not called a meeting to discuss future artwork options.  None of the organizations—Historic District Landmarks Commission and Human Relations Commission—that rubber stamped Landrieu’s cause have called such a meeting. Nothing is planned.  No public discussions held.  No artists commissioned.  No money for new monuments mentioned.  Mitch is the man without a plan.

I’m sure Take’Em Down NOLA has some ideas but, well, there’s that slippery slope again.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It’s been about seven months since the devastating floods in south Louisiana caused damage to over 60,000 homes and caused billions of dollars in damage. The recovery is ongoing and fraught with frustration. Not one dime of federal money has been allocated to Louisiana flood victims.

Many residents have been living in campers on their own property next to ruined homes while awaiting FEMA dollars to help rebuild. Some are living in shelters. Some live in their garage. Some move around between friends and family. Some are even living in tents on their own property, unable to move back into their homes which are covered in black mold and unable to do repairs until the money starts to flow.

In September, the federal government allocated $1.6 billion in federal aid for Louisiana but not one dime has been released to those in need.

Congressman Garret Graves represents much of the flooded area and he wanted the federal money sent directly to the local level where it could be put in the hands of those who need it most but the state refused, opting instead to hire a contractor to manage the flood recovery program; that bidding process is a mess. Graves released this statement last week when the contract worth $250 million fell through:

Tent living post flood.

This is very disappointing news. This will further delay the allocation of badly-needed flood relief funds that we appropriated in September. It is impossible to explain to flood victims why $1.6 billion in recovery dollars are stuck in the bureaucracy while homes remain gutted, moldy and un-insulated.

This also further challenges our efforts in Congress to provide additional flood relief dollars when not a penny of September funding has been allocated to flood victims. On August 19th, I urged that a contractor be hired to administer this program.

Taking away $250 million or more from flood victims and giving it contractors to administer this program and to take seven months or more to get the money out the door further victimizes our flood survivors.

This has nothing to do with politics; it is just frustrating and sloppy.  Finally, anyone that attempts to blame these delays on the federal systems lacks a fundamental understanding of the process and opportunities to expedite flood relief.

As it is right now, nobody is in charge of flood relief in Louisiana. 

It appears that the politicians are afraid to touch the issue and with the exception of Congressman Graves, you’d be hard pressed to find one politician who has been through those flood ravaged neighborhoods or met with those desperate people since August 2016.

Entire neighborhoods remain empty in Baton Rouge.

Immediately after the flooding, and in fact while the flooding was still ongoing, a group of citizen soldiers, later dubbed the Cajun Navy and which I wrote about here, jumped into action.  These people were citizens with boats and/or a willingness to help. They worked alongside the authorities and saved countless lives and have continued to provide aid and resources to those still frustrated by government red tape and bureaucracy.

And now, a 501c3 non-profit, Cajun Relief Foundation, is partnering with a few local organizations to get help to the citizens that most need it. They are working non-stop to help people get household items that they need like beds, tables, appliances, silverware. Many of these victims were folks that were already “at risk,” and had health issues, transportation issues, employment issues, etc.

Most of these victims are self-reliant people who don’t want to ask for help even though they badly need it.

Imagine navigating the task of demolition, clean-up, rebuilding, negotiating with insurance agencies, mortgage companies, FEMA, the federal government, the state, and crooked opportunists who only want to rip you off when sometimes the best you can do is comfort your children when it starts to rain and they are terrified.

One of those citizen soldiers is Shannon Easley who oversees a distribution center of materials and supplies in her church. Shannon goes out into the communities and talks to the people; she makes live Facebook videos of their plight to bring awareness of the need. Last week she talked to a man who is blind in one eye and on dialysis three times a week; Shannon kept asking him what he needed but he just kept telling her how much he had already done. He was so proud of his work! But, it’s clear there are needs there.

Cajun Relief Foundation posted this on their Facebook page last week and this post speaks to this issue much better than I can:

Everyone expected massive needs after the flood, everyone knew it would be hard, everyone assumes there’s someone there to help. But, what if there’s not, think about it. All it takes is one person who can’t figure out what to do next, who to call, where to go, who to turn to. And they are out there, the floods forgotten.

The needs, you know they’re real. And not because of the size of the flood because that was months ago. You know it’s real because you hear about it from passers by, you see in online articles, you glance at it on the local news, you see it on the cover of the local newspapers, you pass something out of place on the street and frankly if you’re really in tune with your fellow human beings and the universe, you just frankly just sense it in the air. Let me ask you, do you walk past it, do you close your wallet? What are you doing right now to help?

I promise you when you get in your car, drive to a barren house with the elderly resident whose beloved veteran husband was all they had in world, except for their home and memories and who has no one helping her and you see it and smell it and you roll your sleeves up, get down into the nitty-gritty and actually really SEE it for yourself, a feeling of helplessness that is hard to describe will take over… you try and hide it because of the people you’re there to be strong for… but when this plays out over and over and over and over… again.. it’s hard.

Then you step out on her grimy front porch and notice an elderly neighbor standing in their door peering over and watching you and you wonder, are they being helped? You walk over and talk to them… find they are yet another lost soul, no one helping and you smell the mold coming from inside of their home.. and their living conditions have them hopeless… and you feel hopeless because you’ve tapped out your own savings… and you wonder…. how many more little houses with perfect picket fences that line the street… have studs for walls and have completely broken, forgotten flood victims living in them?

The team of people that I’m honored to see working every day on behalf of flood victims see it, hear it and patiently go about fixing it every single day. One person, one family, one pet, one home, one meal, one set of clothes, one puzzle, one toy, one smile… at a time. Yet, still we know this is simply BIGGER than anyone can wrap their head around. You alone cannot save the world, but, you that doesn’t mean you don’t still carry the weight of it. Because you are human and you try and be tune and connect with your fellow beings… and God.

You would assume that the churches in the area would help, and some are, but so many are only helping those in their congregation. What do you do if you aren’t in the congregation?

The need is great.

And none of the politicians see it first-hand. Worse, in many ways the politicians are standing in the way.

While the government fiddles, Cajun Relief is doing what needs to be done. My question is why do we need to pay $250 million to a firm to manage flood recovery when the non-profits are already doing it? The politicians need to see what the non-profits are doing and go from there. The winning bidder is going to have to come in and learn what is already being done. It doesn’t make sense.

Cajun Relief is not in Baton Rouge because they want publicity or recognition: they are in it purely to help the people. They meet the people, talk to them, assess their needs, assign case workers to help follow up, and organize crowd funding to buy the essentials for these people. These flood victims have spend their life savings (if they had any) doing repairs on their own. They don’t have money left over for a new stove.

If you want to help, go to The Cajun Relief Foundation and donate. You can be sure that your donation will get help to those flood victims who are still waiting for the politicians to figure out who gets what size slice of the federal government pie; Cajun Relief doesn’t want any of that pie. They just want to help their neighbors.