On the eve of a key legislative vote, two critics of the bid to remove Confederate monuments in New Orleans denounced the effort Tuesday.
Former state Sen. Elbert Guillory, who is black, said the controversy is about race, not monuments, and those monuments need protection. “It is American history, it is Louisiana history,” Guillory said of the sites in dispute.
The issue stems from plans to remove the statues of Robert E. Lee and others.
The New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 in December to have the monuments carted off amid criticism they are relics and offensive.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals issued an injunction last month preventing the move until the court hears arguments by monument backers.
On Thursday a Louisiana House committee at 9 a.m. is set to debate a second and possibly final legislative bid to block the action.
The proposal, House Bill 944, would require a waiver from a newly created Memorial Preservation Board to relocate any statue, monument, memorial or plaque on public property for more than 30 years.
Similar legislation failed last week in the Louisiana Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Guillory, who testified at that hearing, on Tuesday compared the push to toss controversial sites to punishing whites for what their great, great grandfathers may have done to African-Americans in the 19th century.
John Dunlap III, a Baton Rouge attorney who represents plaintiffs challenging removal of the monuments, said viewing historical events through today’s eyes “is a very dangerous thing.”
Dunlap said the effort is akin to expressions of regret and near apologies for the U.S. decision to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 to end World War II. “That is what we are seeing, an attempt to rewrite history,” he said.
Guillory and Dunlap made their comments to the Ronald Reagan Newsmaker Luncheon, which is sponsored by the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish and the Louisiana Republican Assembly.
The Senate bill aimed at blocking the removal of the monuments failed 4-5 on a party line vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.
The House panel hearing the bill on Thursday — Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs — includes nine Democrats, eight Republicans and one member without party affiliation.
The statues targeted for removal include those honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and a militia group known as the White League, which tried to overthrow Louisiana’s biracial government after the Civil War.