Photos by Derick Hingle & Kandace Power Graves
Nearly two years after Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced plans to remove controversial Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans, a March 6 ruling from a federal appeals court gave the city a green light to begin removing the statues..
, the New Orleans City Council voted to take down monuments to P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and the Battle of Liberty Place, but removal efforts stalled after a lawsuit from the Monumental Task Committee challenged the vote. Today's ruling from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling against the suit.
“This win today will allow us to begin to turn a page on our divisive past and chart the course for a more inclusive future," Landrieu said in a statement. "Moving the location of these monuments — from prominent public places in our city where they are revered to a place where they can be remembered — changes only their geography, not our history. Symbols matter and should reflect who we are as a people. These monuments do not now, nor have they ever reflected the history, the strength, the richness, the diversity or the soul of New Orleans."
Bids for the removal will be released this week, and the monuments will likely be placed in a city-owned warehouse "until further plans can be developed for a park or museum site where the monuments can be put in a fuller context," according to the city. The court said it accepts the city's assurance that it will "hire only qualified and highly skilled crane operators and riggers to relocate the monuments from their current positions and, further, that the monuments are merely to be relocated, not destroyed."
The three-judge panel ruled that the lawsuit's claims that the city violated due process "wholly lack legal viability or support," and that "wise or unwise, the ultimate determination made here, by all accounts, followed a robust democratic process."
"Indeed, by failing to show a constitutionally or otherwise legally protected interest in the monuments, they have also failed to show that any irreparable harm to the monuments — even assuming such evidence — would constitute harm to Appellants," the ruling said.
The court also said it found "no evidence in the record suggesting that any party other than the City has ownership."
Today's ruling doesn't take into account the Liberty Place monument, honoring a violent uprising that faced an integrated police force during Reconstruction efforts. The controversial marker is under a federal consent decree, which the city has asked a federal judge to lift.