THE MARCH TO MONUMENT MADNESS
The Confederate monument removal frenzy has now spread from New Orleans to Lafayette, Louisiana. A monument dedicated to Confederate General “Alfred” Mouton should be removed, according to activists with the group Move the Mindset. A member of the group, Frank Crocco, says that he agrees with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu that Confederate statues “don’t represent the community anymore.”
The Mouton monument opponents were emboldened by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision clearing the way for Mayor Landrieu’s administration to remove four Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Among the New Orleans monuments, the statue honoring General Robert E. Lee is the oldest and was unveiled in 1884. In Lafayette, the Mouton statue has been in place since 1922. These Confederate statues are both works of work and historical treasures that need to be protected, not removed and potentially damaged or even destroyed.
The effort to remove Confederate monuments gained momentum in 2015 after white supremacist Dylan Roof killed nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was later discovered on the Internet that Roof had been pictured waving the Confederate flag. Soon thereafter, South Carolina officials removed the Confederate Flag from their statehouse grounds.
In New Orleans, Mayor Landrieu used the South Carolina tragedy to mobilize opposition to the four Confederate monuments. He was successful in obtaining a 6-1 New Orleans City Council vote, which labeled the statues as “nuisances” and gave official approval for their removal.
While the decision has been ratified by the courts, there are pending lawsuits in both state and federal courts and the potential for legislative action in Baton Rouge aimed at protecting the monuments.
The whole process could also be derailed by a lack of funding. Reports are circulating that the anonymous donor who promised to cover the costs of removing the Confederate monuments has withdrawn his offer. There is also the potential for a lack of qualified bidders to handle such a delicate project. Unfortunately, no one knows who is bidding on the project or funding it because the Landrieu administration refuses to provide the public with this information.
If the Mayor is successful and the four monuments are moved to an undisclosed warehouse for temporary storage, there is no assurance that they will be preserved or relocated in a public setting. In fact, there are some rumors that a private individual may eventually possess the monuments at his “slave museum.”
Presently, there are more questions than answers, but we do know that the Mayor is fixated on removing the statues and he now has legislative and judicial approval to move forward.
The process might not end with the removal of the four Confederate monuments because there are vocal activists with the group Take ‘Em Down NOLA who want to remove dozens of other statues in New Orleans, including the city’s most iconic monument, the statue of Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter. This statue, right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, in Jackson Square, in the heart of the French Quarter is the most photographed spot in the Gulf South. Removing such a gem would be devastating to New Orleans as a tourist attraction and historical destination.
These activists want the city of New Orleans to be completely free of references to Confederate heroes or slave owners. They demand that any landmarks and street names honoring former slave owning Presidents such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson must also be removed.
This campaign is not new, it actually started in the 1990’s when Orleans Parish Public School Board officials stripped the name George Washington from a school. Even though he was a brilliant general, our first president and our most influential Founding Father, since he owned slaves the school board judged him to be unworthy to adorn a public school.
Along with monuments and school names, street names will also need to be changed. Residents can say goodbye to Jefferson Davis Parkway, Robert E. Lee Blvd., Jackson Avenue, Washington Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, Bienville Street, Calhoun Street, Henry Clay Avenue, among many, many others. This will cause confusion and bring economic costs to thousands of citizens and businesses who will be forced to deal with the headaches of changing their official addresses.
Before the landscape of New Orleans is changed forever, it is imperative that the residents of the city be allowed a vote on the issue. On a matter, so important to the future of New Orleans, voters should have input. It should not be left to the politicians or unelected federal judges.
If the Mayor is so confident of the correctness of his position, why not give the citizens the right to make the final decision? Surely, in a city with a 65% African American majority, citizens would agree with the Mayor, right?
Or, maybe not, which is why Landrieu and his political cronies hoard all the decision-making power and give none of it to the citizens of New Orleans, the people most impacted by their misguided governance.