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Hearing on Confederate statues set for Jan. 14

28th December 2015   ·   0 Comments

A hearing on the future of four Confederate-era statues in New Orleans in federal court has been set for January 14, just days before the Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday.

Just hours after the New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 to remove the Liberty Monument and statues of three Confederate leaders from public spaces in the city, four pro-monument groups filed a legal challenge in federal court that argues, among other things, that removal of the statues would violate federal and state laws.

According to the suit, “The Lee Monument, the Beauregard equestrian monument, the Jefferson Davis monument and the Liberty Monument were explicitly erected to preserve, foster and promote the historic and cultural origins of the citizens of New Orleans and the residents of Louisiana.”

The lawsuit was filed by the Louisiana Landmarks Society, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, the Monumental Task Committee and Beauregard Camp No. 130.

The case will be heard by U.S, District Judge Carl Barbier.

The case will go to court January 14, a day before the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual birthday and just three days before the 2016 MLK Jr. National Holiday.

Some say the case will become a measuring tool for how far the City of New Orleans has come since the Civil Rights Movement and how much work remains to be done to make the city more inclusive and equitable.

“This is a chance for the city to finally get it right, but with every passing day it looks less likely like that’s going to happen,” resident Angela Kellar told The Louisiana Weekly. “This city hasn’t changed very much since the days of slavery and apparently is not very motivated to make any significant changes.”

“I want to thank the New Orleans City Council for their courageous decision to turn a page on our divisive past and chart the course for a more inclusive future,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said after the City Council vote. “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 who we are as a people and a city.

“Now we will have the opportunity to join together as a community and select new unifying symbols that truly reflect who we are today. It is our intention to engage a diverse group, and I look forward to (a) thoughtful and robust public discussion process,” Landrieu added.

Councilmembers Stacy Head and Latoya Cantrell both accused the mayor of making the removal of the Confederate-era monuments an issue when they say it wasn’t prior to him proposing the removal during a Welcome Table gathering this past spring.

“It’s ridiculous for them to say that,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly. “Black people and grassroots organizations have been trying to get those statues taken down since at least the early 20th century.”

Pointing to the recent rumors about Mayor Landrieu seeking a third term at City Hall, the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly, “After the way his agenda for a ‘new New Orleans’ has hurt Black residents and the many ways he has failed to respond to the needs and concerns of Black people, we don’t owe him anything.”

This article originally published in the December 28, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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