The Mouton monument opponents were emboldened by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision clearing the way for the Mayor Landrieu’s administration to remove four Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Among the New Orleans monuments, the statue honoring General Robert E. Lee is the oldest and was unveiled in 1884. In Lafayette, the Mouton statue has been in place since 1922. All of these Confederate statues are both works of work and historical treasures that need to be protected, not destroyed.
The effort to remove Confederate monuments gained momentum in 2015 after white supremacist Dylan Roof killed nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was later discovered on the Internet that Roof had been pictured waving the Confederate flag. Soon thereafter, South Carolina officials removed the Confederate Flag from their statehouse grounds.
In New Orleans, Mayor Landrieu used the South Carolina tragedy to mobilize opposition to four Confederate statues. He was successful in obtaining a 6-1 New Orleans City Council vote, which labeled the statues as “nuisances” and gave official approval for their removal.
While the decision has been ratified by the courts, there are pending lawsuits in both state and federal courts and the potential for legislative action in Baton Rouge aimed at protecting the monuments.
The whole process could also be derailed by a lack of funding. Reports are circulating that the anonymous donor who promised to cover the costs for removing the Confederate monuments has withdrawn his offer.
There is also the potential for a lack of qualified bidders to remove the monuments. However, no one knows who is bidding on the project or funding it because the Landrieu administration refuses to provide the public with this information.
If the Mayor is successful and the four monuments are removed and sent to an undisclosed warehouse for temporary storage, there is no assurance that they will be preserved or relocated in a public setting. There are some rumors that a private individual may eventually possess the monuments at his “slave museum.”
At the present time, there are more questions than answers. All we know for sure is that the Mayor is fixated on removing the statues and he now has legislative and judicial approval to move forward.
We do not know where it will eventually lead because some activists with the group Take ‘Em Down NOLA want to remove dozens of other statues in New Orleans, including the city’s most iconic monument, the statue of Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter. It is located in Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter, right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. It is the most photographed spot in the Gulf South.
These activists want the city of New Orleans to be completely free of references to Confederate heroes or slave owners. So, any landmarks and street names to former slave owning Presidents such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson must also be removed. This campaign actually started in the 1990’s when Orleans Parish Public School Board officials stripped the name George Washington from a school. Even though he was a brilliant general, our first president and our most influential founder, since he owned slaves the school board judged him to be unworthy to adorn a public school.
Along with monuments and school names, street names will also need to be changed. Residents can say goodbye to Jefferson Davis Parkway, Robert E. Lee Blvd., Jackson Avenue, Washington Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, Bienville Street, Calhoun Street, Henry Clay Avenue, among many, many others. This will cause confusion and bring economic costs to struggling citizens who have to change their home and business addresses.
Before the landscape of New Orleans is forever changed, it would be wise to allow the residents of the city a vote on this issue. On a matter so important to the future of New Orleans, voters should make the final decision. It should not be left to the politicians or unelected judges.
If the Mayor is so confident of the correctness of his position, why not give the citizens the right to make the final decision? Surely, in a city with a 65% African American majority, citizens would agree with the Mayor, right?
Or, maybe not, which is why Landrieu and his political cronies hoard all of the decision making power and give none of it to the people most impacted by their misguided decisions, the citizens of New Orleans.
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