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New Orleans’ Vieux Carre Commission unanimously votes to remove Liberty Place monument



  With three city agencies supporting their removal, four Confederate landmarks and statues in New Orleans face an uncertain future that is now in the hands of the New Orleans City Council.

  The Vieux Carre Commission (VCC) voted unanimously Sept. 2 to support removing the controversial monument to the Battle of Liberty Place under a citywide "nuisance" ordinance. That ordinance says a public statue can be considered a nuisance 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 so-called Liberty Monument (currently at the end of Iberville Street near the riverfront streetcar line) is among the most controversial of four landmarks up for debate. In 1874, nearly a decade after the Civil War, in an attempted coup to overthrow the local Reconstruction government, members of the Crescent City White League took up arms against the Metropolitan Police and state military. The White League succeeded for a short time, but federal troops quickly restored order — then left after the next presidential election.

  On Aug. 13, the Historic Districts Landmark Commission (HDLC) and the Human Relations Commission agreed that the monument — as well as monuments to P.G.T. Beauregard outside City Park, Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle and Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway — "may be removed" under the nuisance ordinance. The VCC concurred.

  Pierre McGraw, a member of the Monumental Task Committee, a citizen group opposing the city's attempts to remove the statues, said that removing the Liberty Monument would come at a large cost to taxpayers and suggested adding interpretive plaques or more statues "to forgotten heroes or new heroes." Other opponents said removal of the Liberty Place monument would be Orwellian, comparable to the destruction of arts and architecture by the terror group ISIS. As it stands, McGraw said, the statue's context is "benign."

  After the monument's erection in 1891, the city added new inscriptions — the first in 1932 — that added, "United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state." In 1974, the city added a marker noting that, despite the importance of the monument in the city's history, "the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans."

  At an upcoming meeting, the City Council will consider whether to remove the monument.

  Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. David Vitter is championing the movement to keep the monuments in place. He has taken out radio ads across rural Louisiana blasting Mayor Mitch Landrieu for proposing their removal. Last week, Vitter was joined by former KKK leader and neo-Nazi David Duke, who threatened legal action to halt removal of the Liberty Monument.

  "We believe that the heritage of New Orleans is at stake, the heritage of our state is at stake and the heritage of our country is at stake," Duke said, adding, "We have a right to preserve our heritage and our values the same way that African-American people have a right to honor those they consider to be their leaders and their heroes."

  The mayor quickly fired off an email tying Vitter to Duke, saying the two men had "doubled down on their efforts to keep this monument, fighting to preserve the last vestiges of white supremacy rather than honoring the great diversity that defines us today."

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