Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Monuments I

In the fall of 2015 New Orleans City Council voted to remove four statues from public land that were honoring personnel of the Confederate Army or white supremacy. This majority vote caused a lot of repercussion. Opponents of the measure argued that the statues belonged to the history of the city and removing them would mean to erase history. Other arguments included the cost of the removal, or that this was only symbolic politics not changing anything about the situation of the African American community in New Orleans, especially concerning poverty and incarceration rates.

Proponents argued that the statues were erected during the Jim Crow era to underline white supremacy and that this was no longer keeping with the times, especially in a majority African American city.

Be it as it may, the vote was upheld by the courts. In late April the Battle of Liberty Place monument was the first to come down. It commemorated an event staged by the White League against the local police force in 1874. You can read more about it in Wikipedia.

Erected in 1891, the monument had originally been placed at the end of Canal Street. In 1931 and 1974 markers were added first to underline the idea of white supremacy, later to state that this was no longer expressing the contemporary way of thinking. In 1989 the monument was moved to a less prominent location.

The monument was not there anymore when I arrived. I guess nobody who doesn't know that this once was a monument's pedestal would really pay attention.

The second statue to come down was the one of Jefferson Davis. On my first trip to New Orleans I was really surprised to find a street named Jefferson Davis Parkway that runs through Mid City and Broadmoor. After all he had been the first and only president of the Confederacy. Why name a street after him and put up the statue of a loser?

But, of course, there were reasons for this that lead eventually to the proposition for the statue's removal.

None of these removals went about unchallenged. Before they took place protests were staged by people waving confederate, US or Trump flags. Some of them came from out of town.

The removals were not announced beforehand and they were executed at night time as not to stir protests or even violence. The contractor's logos were blackened on the machinery in place and the workers wore masks as not to be identifiable.

But, in the end, there is love.

The other two monuments featured two confederate generals: P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee.

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