After more than a year of a campaign to remove government-sanctioned Confederate symbols from public spaces across the South, a federal court has ruled that the city of New Orleans (LA) can remove three such monuments.
Last year, the New Orleans City Council declared the monuments a “public nuisance” and voted to have them removed from prominent places in the city. Just hours after the vote, The Louisiana Landmarks Society, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Beauregard Camp No. 130, and the Monumental Task Committee filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the city from removing the statutes. However, their claim was rejected by a district court, and in March, 2017, that ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
The monuments are statues that honor Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, and former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The statues will be stored and relocated, but not destroyed.
Plaintiffs and others who opposed removal of the monuments called them part of the city’s history and stated that they should be preserved and protected as historic structures. Rather than removing the statues, they consider a more appropriate response to be the inclusion of plaques and markers to present the individuals in the context of their time.
Attorneys for the Southern Poverty Law Center and attorneys for the city of New Orleans stated in their legal brief that the “monuments were constructed to perpetuate and honor white supremacy,” and “ongoing maintenance of these monuments” in the public square “not only glorifies Louisiana’s long legacy of state-sponsored racial oppression, but also denies the South’s shameful legacy of African slavery.”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “These monuments will be preserved until an appropriate place to display them is determined. Once removed, we will have the opportunity to join together and select new unifying symbols that truly reflect who we are today.”