By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The next mayor of New Orleans will be a woman.  In Saturday’s mayoral election, two women finished with a majority of the votes and will face off in a November runoff election.

While we’ve spent much of the past two years talking about monuments, neither candidate wanted to bring that issue into the campaign, with candidate Desiree Charbonnet calling it “a huge distraction.”

The race finished Saturday night with Desiree Charbonnet, a former Municipal Court Judge, and City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell at the top of a long field of candidates. Charbonnet is a lifelong resident of New Orleans and had the bigger war chest and perhaps the better connections.

LaToya Cantrell is from California but moved to New Orleans in 1999 to attend Xavier University.  She was very politically active after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when the levees broke and flooded her Broadmoor neighborhood.  She was actively involved in the rebuilding and restoration of that neighborhood.

Writing for The Hayride, Owen Courrèges sums up the candidates. On Charbonnet, he says:

Charbonnet is a former Chief Municipal Judge and Recorder of Mortgages for Orleans Parish, positions that shed little light on her policy predilections or executive abilities. Her candidacy for mayor has been punctuated by intense mudslinging; her opponents essentially call her corrupt and intimate that she’ll be selling the city to the highest bidder.  Charbonnet’s coterie consists largely of establishment figures who have been pulling strings for decades, which tends to justify these suspicions.

Nevertheless, Charbonnet is attempting to portray herself as a reformer, and the centerpiece of her agenda is her crime prevention plan.  Her plan entails the old policy sawhorses of hiring more officers and having a national search for a new police chief, but also in reducing funding to monitoring the federal consent decree.  Unfortunately, the NOPD needs more oversight and supervision, not less.  Overall, her crime plan is less a breath of fresh air than it is a revolting burst of halitosis.

And for Cantrell:

The problem with Cantrell is that she’s a major pusher of progressive, flavor-of-the-month legislation.  If San Francisco did something ten years ago, she wants New Orleans doing it now.  Cantrell pioneered New Orleans’ smoking ban, and has attempted to follow up that victory by passing a ban (or at least a tax) on plastic shopping bags, and a “rental registry” creating a new inspection bureaucracy for all residential rental housing in the city.  She has also been a major force pushing affordable housing mandates for new development, and even proposed that New Orleans provide useless municipal ID cards for illegal immigrants.

Cantrell has a reputation as a hard worker who provides solid constituent services, but her policy agenda is the worst species of faddish dreck.  She seems to have little concern whether the legislation she proposes serve any real purpose other than to make peoples’ lives more difficult.

Neither of the two women earned his vote, by the way, and now they will have about a month to earn the votes from the widely spread field of candidates.

No matter who ends up in the mayoral seat, it has got to be better than Mitch Landrieu.  (Funny, we said that after Ray Nagin’s tenure….)

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  In the wake of last week’s flooding in New Orleans and the epic fallout of blame that has deluged us in the media, it is worth noting that the mayor of the city, Mitch Landrieu, has taken no blame whatsoever for the disaster that left many city residents and businesses all wet.

Saturday, August 5, New Orleans took on large amounts of rainfall in a short period – in some areas up to nine inches of rain – more than city pumps could keep up with:

New Orleans is prone to large rainfall events during the spring and throughout hurricane season. The city sits below sea level and is protected by a complex system of drainage pumps operated by the Sewerage and Water Board. After Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005, the federal government sent billions of dollars to New Orleans for improved flood protection, better drainage systems and enhanced levees. In the aftermath of the flood Saturday, there needs to be an accounting of how all of those dollars have been spent.

After the disaster, through the week, the blame game heated up. Heads rolled. People were fired or resigned.  Landrieu tried to stay unscathed.

It’s important to note that Mitch wasn’t even in the city. He was at a conference in Aspen, CO for the purpose of beefing up his presidential credentials.   He didn’t address the people of the city for two days:

[When the flooding began], Landrieu was attending a “security conference” at the Aspen Institute and did not bother to address the people of New Orleans until two days after the storm.

In effect, Landrieu placed his Aspen Institute conference above the citizens of New Orleans. Any true leader would have taken the next flight back to New Orleans to direct the city government’s response to the flood. Instead, Mitch Landrieu hid behind his administration officials and when they failed to meet expectations, he blamed them, fired them and tried to convey to the citizens a false image of engaged leadership.

As it turns out, after a series of false numbers, 16 of the city’s pumps were offline or undergoing maintenance when the storm hit.  Sixteen pumps not working during hurricane season.

As of Saturday, seven days after the storm, Landrieu has still not reviewed Water & Sewerage Board log to assess the problem:

“I have not looked at the logs personally,” Landrieu said during a Saturday morning press conference called to give an update on the status of a turbine that generates electricity for many of the city’s pumps.

The Times-Picayune is calling for Landrieu’s head:

Landrieu must carry a lion’s share of responsibility here. He appointed public works director Mark Jernigan, who apparently never got around to using $3 million earmarked for catch basin repair and maintenance. The mayor also maneuvered Cedric Grant into his role of executive director of the Sewerage & Water Board as a way to overhaul an agency that has been described “as a den for contract-peddling and sweetheart deals for those with the right connections.”

And while Landrieu claims he had no idea things were this bad, his own people cry foul:

But the mayor’s version took a hit late Thursday (Aug. 10) when Sewerage & Water Board president pro-tem Scott Jacobs announced his resignation and criticized Landrieu for blaming employees when the mayor was well aware of all the problems before the storms hit.

If the public is angry with anyone, Jacobs said it should be at the Landrieu administration “for not saying years ago, ‘You are at risk.’ This is not the first time we’ve had turbines down. This time, we got caught.”

Perhaps this will be the event that finally forces Landrieu’s supporters to see him for the career politician that he is and shut down Landrieu’s presidential aspirations.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  New Orleans flooded this weekend.  Again.

A heavy deluge of eight to ten inches fell on the city in a short time Saturday flooding homes, cars, businesses and creating havoc throughout the city.  People in New Orleans realize that their city is basically a below-sea-level bowl and flooding is always an issue, but there is also an extensive system of pumps, drainage, and catch basins that work to keep what happened this weekend from happening.

Last year the New Orleans City Council approved $3 million to work on drainage infrastructure and repairs, however the Landrieu administration has not yet started repairs because they’ve been waiting on an environmental review…for over a year.

The Department of Public Works contends that just because the $3 million hasn’t been tapped, they have not been ignoring daily repairs and cleaning of catch basins.

Obviously drainage was not a Landrieu priority last year; Mitch was much more focused on monuments and equity circles.

In a press conference Saturday, Cedric Grant, head of the Sewerage and Water Board attributed much of the problem to climate change, saying this type of flooding will happen more often.

As their city flooded once again, many residents took to social media to deride Landrieu for spending money on monument removal rather than drainage.

For his part, Landrieu suggested citizens clean out their own catch basins:

“These no-notice rain and flooding events can be very dangerous, but luckily, there was no loss of life,” Landrieu said. “Today, we begin the hard work of assisting those who flooded and getting our streets passable for regular traffic. With additional rain expected today and the rest of this week, I would encourage all of our residents to clean in front of their catch basins.”

It’s admirable and expected that citizens to take responsibility for their own safety of course. There are over 68,000 catch basins in the city:

The Department of Public Works’ maintenance department is responsible for cleaning and clearing catch basins of debris. There are 68,092 catch basins in the City. Each year the City budgets resources to clean approximately 3,500 catch basins.

The broken and clogged catch basins have been a source of conflict for over a year as some members of the City Council question the lack of maintenance from the Department of Public Works. In April, a dead body was found in one catch basin and workers had to dig out clogs and termites to get to the body of Joseph Consonery who had been murdered.

New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, supposedly put drainage and the pump system as top priority:

Sewerage & Water Board officials have said city’s drainage pumping system is designed to handle an inch of rainfall during the first hour of an event and a half-inch each hour thereafter. Officials said all 24 pumping stations were on and working on Saturday. The temporary pumping stations at the ends of the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals only operate when the floodgates blocking water from Lake Pontchartrain are closed, and thus are not operated during a rainfall event. The three permanent pumping stations under construction at the ends of those canals are not yet complete, but will operate in the same way.

Officials said the city’s public safety agencies, including police, fire and emergency medical services, responded to more than 200 emergency calls related to flooding.

City residents are not satisfied with their capacity, however, as the social media outrage reflects. Even the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street, which seldom floods, was inundated and several beloved restaurants took in up to three inches of water.

Once again it seems that Mayor Landrieu’s priorities are askew. We can’t fault him for a significant rain event (can we?) but certainly it is under his leadership and responsibility that the pumps and drainage system are properly maintained.  And to send his minions out to blame the mess simply on climate change and tell people to clean out their own drains is, well, just typical of him.

If what’s in my catch basins are termites and dead bodies, I’m probably not going to be too excited about that project.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT –  The 2017 New Orleans mayoral race qualifying period has closed with a total of 18 candidates, only three of which are considered major candidates.

As most are aware, New Orleans has been the center of much turmoil and negative attention in the past few months. During Landrieu’s term crime has risen dramatically and what is different about that is that it is now in the tourist areas around the French Quarter which has never been more dangerous than it is right now.

The Confederate monuments controversy has also pulled a great deal of attention to the city both positive and negative, depending on your perspective of the issue. At the very least, removal of the four historical monuments has made the city a little less unique and has pulled Landrieu’s attention away from more pressing matters, like police staffing, infrastructure, and crime.

The major candidates in the October 14 primary are “former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet.”  Crime is certainly going to be the top topic in this election.  “Crime is ravaging our city,” said Bagneris, who first ran for mayor in 2012. “Crime is up because police manpower is down, and criminals know it.”

There are no Republicans on the ballot:

Fellow businessman Frank Scurlock, who announced at about the same time as the “Big 3,” also could get a little traction using his own financial resources from his inflatable bounce house empire and his public opposition to the removal of the Confederate monuments to carve out a niche.

Scurlock is one of six white candidates in the field to lead a city with a population that is about 60 percent black. Eleven of the candidates signed up as Democrats, three are running as independents, and four others are running without a party affiliation. There are no Republicans on the mayoral ballot.

As of today, there have been 100 murders in New Orleans this year and countless shootings, muggings, assaults, and other violent crimes.

The primary is October 14 with a November runoff; Landrieu will remain in office through May. According to pundit Stephanie Grace:

[Landrieu] hinted that he hopes to help guide the choice of his successor, perhaps through the political action committee he has set up. While he hasn’t endorsed a candidate, Landrieu has bemoaned New Orleans voters’ history of focusing on change and has advocated for philosophical and policy continuity from his administration to the next.

This race will be closely watched throughout the state as many who have objected to Landrieu’s Confederate monument position have vowed not to visit the city until he is gone.

If a Landrieu clone is elected that tourism ban may continue.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Now that the Confederate era monuments have come down in New Orleans, one would expect the crime rate to drop as well, at least that is the case if you subscribe to the Mitch Landrieu theory of crime control.

But of course that is not the case and residents and sick and tired of it.  Last week surveillance cameras caught an attack on video of two Boston tourists in the French Quarter. The attack was brutal and hard to watch, but it serves to show us that it’s not just in the neighborhoods where we expect there to be crime that this happens. New Orleans is a city that is supported in large part by tourism and when tourists go there they go to the French Quarter.  If you’re not safe there…

What is the mayor of the city doing about this rampant lawlessness in the city?  Not a whole lot.  He’s giving speeches in south Florida at the Conference of Mayors where he declared

“So let’s be honest. In these moments of uncertain, chaotic and sometimes frustrating times, the families we represent cannot look to Washington for answers,” Landrieu said. “In this political climate, we as mayors must fight to occupy the radical center, where idealism meets reality and where we put people over politics.”

He opened the Essence festival which gave him yet another opportunity to advocate for the removal of the monuments:

The mayor restated his position that though the Civil War was a brief period in the city’s history, the monuments had lingered as symbols for too long and had no place on a contemporary New Orleans public thoroughfares. He called the former situation “absurd.” He put a finer point of the subject when he described the proximity of the now-removed Robert E. Lee statue to the Convention Center.  “Just think about it for a moment,” he said, “having the Confederate monuments stand less than 300 yards from where the Essence Festival meets, that juxtaposition seems like it just doesn’t work.”

While Landrieu is positioning himself for a national bid of some sort when his term ends later this year, the city is in the grips of a terrible crime wave which is certain to affect tourism. This has nothing to do with monuments of course, but more with the fact that Landrieu has refused to pay police officers a decent wage and implemented a two year hiring freeze on police officers which dropped numbers by 400 officers, a 40-year low.

As of this writing, there have been 96 murders (many more shootings, muggings, robberies, rapes, etc.) in 2017 as compared with a total of 175 in 2016.  The numbers are higher each month this year than in comparable months for 2016.

Residents are sick of it.

James Hartman, writing for The Hayride blog, says

The French Quarter is safer, right?  It’s the tourist area so it has extra protection. It has extra taxes to pay for State Police protection, because while Landrieu told NOPD he couldn’t pay them more or hire more of them, he simply added a tax to hire state officials – an inexplicable paradox.  It’s the area that has barricades to prevent Nice- and London-style attacks on innocents.  We’re supposed to be safe there, right?

No.  We’re supposed to be safe everywhere.

Realistically, of course, that’s not possible.  Crime happens, and it happens everywhere.  What should not be happening, however, is that a city is so overrun with lawlessness that people are beaten nearly to death in the streets, that literally hundreds of people are shot – fatally or injuriously—or that children catch stray bullets while thugs roam free.  What shouldn’t happen is that the leader of a relatively major city gives speeches 1,000 miles away in which he says that statues are “virtual murders,” that the Paris Accords are the responsibility of America’s cities now, that Russians interfered with the presidential election (and, therefore, with his appointment to a Cabinet post).

As Landrieu positions himself on the national stage in the coming months we need to know the kind of leader he is. Under his tenure a once beautiful, thriving, unique city is somewhat diminished. It will take more than Mitch Landrieu to kill New Orleans, but he certainly has done her no favors.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT  —  Let me open this week by apologizing for missing my post last week; a friend of mine died suddenly and the funeral was Monday. It all happened so quickly that I never even thought about my post here until Wednesday.  Note:  if you are a diabetic, please take care of yourself and do not ignore symptoms or skip medications. That disease is serious business.  Take care of yourself.

Meanwhile, here in Louisiana, local and state government continues to be the hot mess that it has been for decades and an issue for which Louisiana has become famous. I’ve documented pretty thoroughly the ineptitude that is local government in New Orleans: Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to attempt to reinvent his legacy and image in the face of daily shootings and murders in the city while he was spending millions to remove four Confederate era monuments.

Let’s read between the lines of this summation of the situation:

The city says about $2.1 million was spent to remove the three Confederate monuments in May and the Battle of Liberty Place monument in April, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration had not anticipated.

My question: how could Landrieu have been so clueless as to not realize security would be needed? Did he really not think people would protest this?  Ineptitude at its finest.

Continue:

The city said $1.04 million of the monument-removal costs came from budgeted city funds, with $1.07 million coming from private donations through the Foundation for Louisiana, which is keeping the names of donors secret.

Secret?  Seriously?  I would love to know who is funding cultural genocide in New Orleans. FOIA, anyone? Be sure to read this post from The Hayride for more about Landrieu and his friends at Foundation for Louisiana.

Continue:

Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said “racial extremists” forced the city to spend $710,000 on a safety and intelligence contractor named Trident Response Group. Invoices show that Trident, a Dallas-based company, provided advice developing operational plans with consultants charging up to $425 an hour.

Trident also provided two security advisers, listed on invoices only as “Bob” and “Gary,” at $275 and $250 per hour, respectively. About a half dozen other security analysts monitored threats on social media and other sources as known white supremacy groups and opposing Antifas encouraged online followers to amass in New Orleans, Berni said.

Again, this wasn’t anticipated? And “racial extremeists” forced the city to spend this money? This is incredible. I would suggest Landrieu would be more to blame than “racial extremeists.” As for Trident Security, they are self-described as “elite risk and threat solutions firm of Veterans and Special Ops to anticipate and solve problems for influential decision-makers.”

This is serious secret-agent stuff, isn’t it?! And all for what? What was accomplished?

Continue:

Mayor Mitch Landrieu had said there would be no city funds used the remove the Liberty Place monument and statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis.

Berni emphasized no city funds were used on actual removal work, only logistics, security and storage. For example, the city was forced to spend about $52,000 building a shed for the monuments — and another $12,000 in security there — after they were moved to a storage yard because of attempts to vandalize them when they were left outside, Berni said.

Semantics. Word-play. Of course city funds were used in this demolition.  And again with this “forced” business – the city “was forced to spend…”. When did this shed get built because last time I saw photos of the monuments they were outside in a maintenance yard. Perhaps Landrieu should have left them where they were until he had a plan to place them someplace else – then he could have saved $52K  on “a shed.”

And by the way, there is still no plan for the monuments that anyone knows about.

Continue:

After WWL-TV reported earlier this week that the city spent $173,000 deploying 221 NOPD officers to the three Confederate leaders’ statues, the full amount paid for all four removals and the protests was released Friday. The total NOPD cost was nearly $220,000. Fire Department personnel were paid $20,000 and EMS employees made about $5,500 to be stationed at the monuments.

The Regional Transit Authority also spent about $7,500 to remove and reinstall overhead streetcar lines at Lee Circle to clear the way for the especially challenging removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.

Via. The Advocate

The graphic from The Advocate breaks down regular and overtime hours. All could have been avoided. Trident received $710K for this gig.  Would anyone say that Mitch Landrieu has been a good steward of the city’s money?  I don’t think so.

I feel certain at some point the Democrats are going to attempt to put Landrieu’s name out there for the next presidential election and it’s incumbent on all of us to know what you’re getting with that.

Meanwhile, New Orleans continues with daily shootings and murders, potholes go unfixed, the city’s infrastructure declines, tourism declines and problems amass.  The city is more racially divided than ever – a city that was once known for its acceptance of diversity and tolerance.

But at least there are four less pieces of public art. There’s that.  At least now nobody will have to drive by a statue of Robert E. Lee and feel the trauma of remembering that our country was once divided by a civil war over issues much more complex than just slavery. At least nobody will have to walk past a Jefferson Davis monument (even though they will still have to travel of Jefferson Davis Boulevard).

He has protected us from that trauma. Now if he could figure out how to protect us from the violence in the streets of New Orleans that would be something.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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)