The city of New Orleans is considering an ordinance that would tear down monuments honoring Confederate heroes, according to news reports. New Orleans has statues honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. There is also a monument commemorating the Battle of Liberty Place, an 1874 uprising by the White League who attempted to overthrow racially integrated governance that came out of Reconstruction.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the proposal to remove the monuments was motivated by the massacre of nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. by Dylann Roof, a white supremacist. Roof hoped the attack would spark a race war, but it created a backlash against Confederate symbols. Several Southern states have removed the Stars and the Bars and other Confederate logos in a rush to distance themselves from Roof, who featured the rebel flag on his car.
According to CNN, Landrieu said he had been considering removing the statues, but the Charleston massacre was the final straw. The attack happened on June 17, and a week later, Landrieu proposed an ordinance that would declare Confederate monuments nuisances.
The ordinance declares the statues unconstitutional.
“They honor, praise, or foster ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens as provided by the constitution and laws of the United States, the state, or the laws of the city and suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over another,” said the ordinance.
Landrieu said monuments honoring Confederate heroes go against New Orlean’s reputation for tolerance.
“This discussion is about whether these monuments, built to reinforce the false valor of a war fought over slavery, ever really belonged in a city as great as New Orleans, whose lifeblood flows from our diversity and inclusiveness,” said Landrieu during a city council meeting.
Jazz musician Branford Marsalis argued that the statues should be removed for another reason. He told WDSU that Lee, in particular, had no historic place in New Orleans.
“This symbolic place in our city should represent a great New Orleanian, or it should be an open space that represents our latest prevail and how people helped us, not a person who had nothing to do with our city and who indeed fought against the United States of America and lost,” he said.
However, there are some people who want the monuments to stay in place.
According to The Associated Press, activists on both sides of the argument will get to voice their opinions at Thursday night’s special city council meeting before a vote is taken on the ordinance. The city has beefed up security in expectations of a rowdy meeting. The AP said the decision to remove the monuments would represent the most drastic decision by a city to sever ties with the Confederacy.
“This has never happened before,” said Charles Kelly Barrow, commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in an AP interview. “I’ve never heard of a city trying to sweep (away) all Confederate monuments.”
Memphis has also approved the removal of another monument to a Confederate hero. In August, the Memphis City Council voted to remove an equestrian statue of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader who also founded the Ku Klux Klan.