Hearing postponed for Confederate monuments legislation; city seeks OK to remove Liberty Place monument _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Landscaping and repair crews recently began working around the streetcar line next to the White League Monument but have not touched the monument seen here in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The monument was erected by the White League, a white supremacist paramilitary terrorist organization that attempted an armed insurrection against the New Orleans Metropolitan police, many who were African-American, and Louisiana state militia in September 1874. The City Council recently voted 6-1 to remove the "Battle of Liberty Place" White League monument and three other Confederate monuments. Red graffiti on the monument says "TAKE EM DOWN."

The Battle of Liberty Place monument is the least prominent of the four statues that New Orleans has slated for removal. It's an unimpressive obelisk surrounded by parking lots and dwarfed by power poles. As public memorials go, it's pretty much a joke.

That doesn't mean its longstanding presence on the city's streets is funny, or harmless. The monument was erected to commemorate the 1874 White League uprising against New Orleans' multi-racial police force. A plaque that once overtly honored “white supremacy” and described the U.S.-backed force as “usurpers” was deemed so inappropriate that the city replaced it in the 1970s by one that purports to honor “those Americans on both sides of the conflict,” and warns that this “conflict of the past … should teach us lessons for the future.” But the meaning behind the monument's very existence can't be so easily whitewashed.

So here's to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier for ruling this week that the city can finally take the monument down, despite an old consent order that required it to be displayed following an earlier removal attempt. Barbier ruled that the order doesn't require the monument to be displayed on city property permanently, so it will soon join statues of Confederate icons Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard in storage, and ultimately on display — in historical context — elsewhere.

That's where they all belong.

Unlike the others targeted as nuisances, the Liberty Place monument had few public advocates. But although some critics of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council's actions have offered up nuanced views of the men depicted, it's important to remember that all these statues were erected during the same Jim Crow period. It's also important to note that Lee and Beauregard aren't depicted voicing doubts about slavery or preaching equality, for example, but in battle regalia, standing as symbols of a rightfully lost cause. Like the Liberty Place monument, the statues expressed the dominant sentiment (by those in power, anyway) of the era in which they were erected.

You don't necessarily get that all that when you drive by the glorified figures at Lee Circle or by the entrance to City Park, or wander past the nondescript obelisk stuck behind Canal Place. But really, it's kind of the most important part.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.