The words Confederate monuments have taken on more of a meaning for the United States, for President Donald Trump and for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Despite the mayor’s recent actions in removing three monuments this spring, a new announcement is giving rise to the prospects that the legal debate over the local issue has not come to an end.
Did New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City of New Orleans err when it took down the statue of P.G.T. Beauregard last night?
Rarely, have I seen few issues that have generated as much raw heat, tension, and passion than the Confederate monuments controversy.
Just as existed during the real civil war, where brothers battled brothers, social media is the battleground, particularly Facebook, pitting friend against friend.
On one side of the tense divide, there are those who are protecting the New Orleans civil war era monuments. Burnt in effigy, forever, is the symbol of Mayor Mitch Landrieu for up-ending what the monument protectors consider to be the loving civil society of New Orleans.
Lately, events have turned somewhat militaristic.
Some protectors of the Confederate monuments have been staying vigilant, in person and online, even surveilling during the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the next Mayor Landrieu attack. On Sunday morning, with protections of snipers, masked workers and a dumbstruck audience, the worst of all of the monuments was cut and carried., the Liberty Monument.
What’s in a name?
With all the hullabaloo taking place in the Big Easy over Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s support of removing Confederate monuments comes a revealing study from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The study found that there are at least 1,503 symbols of the Confederacy in public places across the country, mostly in the Deep South.
In SPLC’s report, entitled “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy,” it notes that symbols that honor the Confederacy can be found on flags; city, county (parish) and school names; lakes, dams and other public works; and state holidays.
Debate over state Rep. Thomas Carmody’s HB 944 raises complex questions about who decides what historical monuments remain on public property. Ultimately, drawing upon first principles of American government resolves these.
The bill goes into greater detail than state Sen. Beth Mizell’s SB 276, but like it makes a state commission the arbiter of whether local governments may move or remove monuments dealing with historical events and people. Carmody’s bill presumes that any such structure in place for at least three decades a local government cannot move without the body’s approval.
State residents may disagree about their favorite sports team or politician, but there is little disagreement about the value of Confederate monuments. The vast majority of Louisiana residents agree that the controversial New Orleans monuments should not be taken down. At least that is the obvious conclusion from a new poll by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab.
Days before the federal court has even ruled on the lawsuits brought forward by four organizations concerned about historic preservation, Mayor Mitch Landrieu is moving forward with his plans to dismantle four Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Over the past few days, the Landrieu administration has sent work crews to the monument sites to make initial preparations to remove the monuments.