Judge says Liberty Place monument can come down

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Liberty Monument. - PHOTO BY KANDACE POWER GRAVES
  • Photo by Kandace Power Graves
  • Liberty Monument.
A federal judge has ruled that New Orleans can remove a monument honoring a white supremacist uprising. It's likely the final thumbs up for city officials to begin removing four Confederate-era monuments after an appeals court ruling sided with the city to take down monuments to P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. The Liberty decision comes just two days after that ruling.

The Battle of Liberty Place monument originally honored a revolt from members of the Crescent City White League against Reconstruction efforts and the city's integrated police force in 1874.

The obelisk was completed in 1891 and was later moved from the neutral ground on Canal Street, then a warehouse, then behind a parking garage at Canal Place, as debate swirled for decades over the statue's presence and message. In 1932, members of the White League added an inscription that read, "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, following public outcry, Mayor Moon Landrieu's administration added, "the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans."

In 1981, the City Council overruled Mayor Ernest "Dutch" Morial's attempt to move the statue. In the '90s, a marker simply added, "In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place, a conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future."

Unlike the other monuments, the Liberty statue was protected by a federal consent decree that prevented the city from moving it. The city moved the statue into a warehouse in the '80s during road repairs, but Francis Shubert β€” a David Duke supporter and descendent of one of the men who fought in the battle β€” sued to keep it in public view. It moved to a space behind the Canal parking garage in 1992.

On March 8, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled that the the order and preservation laws don't prevent the city from moving it.

β€œIn less than 48 hours, another court has affirmed the city's right to control its property," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. "The federal court allowed the city to remove the Liberty Place Monument, in my opinion the most offensive of the four we will be moving. This monument, erected by the White League to specifically revere white supremacy and commemorate an attack on law enforcement, has never represented New Orleans or American values."

In 2015, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said he believes "the existence of the Liberty Place monument to be particularly shameful."

"This monument is not simply a reminder of a troubled past," he said. "It was originally commissioned to explicitly celebrate an uprising that resulted in the deaths of [13] police officers,"


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