As New Orleans City Council prepares to tackle Confederate monument issue, opponents suggest alternatives

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The Monumental Task Committee opposes plans to remove four Confederate landmarks in New Orleans. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • The Monumental Task Committee opposes plans to remove four Confederate landmarks in New Orleans.

More than 30,000 people have signed petitions opposing the removal of four monuments to Confederate leaders and events. The Monumental Task Committee (MTC) — a volunteer group that has led efforts to prevent the City of New Orleans from removing the statues —  has sent the signatures to City Hall as the New Orleans City Council prepares its final meetings on an ordinance that considers the monuments' removal under a "nuisance" law, which says a public statue can be removed if it "honors, praises, or fosters ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens" or "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another."

The four monuments include statues honoring Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard, Robert E. Lee and the Battle of Liberty Place, an uprising from the Crescent City White League against Reconstruction efforts after the Civil War. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said a private donor is willing to pay for the cost of their removal. MTC President Pierre McGraw said Landrieu "has chosen to railroad" a decision on the monuments during a busy holiday season, and he questions the legality of their removal.

McGraw said despite public meetings held by the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the Human Relations Commission, the Vieux Carre Commission and other parties, there has not been significant public discussion about the monuments' future. (Those city agencies support their removal.) MTC's invitations to Landrieu and City Council members to attend MTC forums were not returned, McGraw said.

"How's that a fair hearing?" McGraw told Gambit. "How can a group whose mission is to care (for monuments) — the Historic District Landmarks Commission — why would you vote against that? Same for Human Relations. How is removing iconic monuments to one party or population's heritage, possibly displacing it with another, going to improve human relations?"

The MTC, which filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State in 1993 and acts as a custodian to statues throughout the city, suggests the city add interpretive plaques (written by committee) to the monuments. The MTC also wants to build new monuments: to Paul Prudhomme, Revolutionary War heroes, Freedom Riders who challenged segregation, and an ex-president. The group also suggested several sites for the new monuments. MTC will reveal the monuments' subjects and who requested them at a later date, McGraw said.

The New Orleans City Council will host a public meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10 immediately following the regular meeting — it will convene no earlier than 2 p.m. (The regular meeting begins around 10 a.m.) The City Council is expected to vote on the measure next Thursday, Dec. 17.

"The New Orleans City Council takes seriously its responsibility to carefully consider the Monuments Ordinance currently before us," said New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams. "I believe that this ordinance should be subject to the committee process we use for virtually all ordinances. All of our offices continue to welcome and receive a large number of constituent comments on this issue. The comments express a diversity of opinion on this issue, and are often extremely passionate. As such, it is important to provide an opportunity for Councilmembers to hear from the public on this issue." 


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