A new federal lawsuit seeking to block the removal of monuments to Confederate officials in New Orleans argues that the city unfairly discriminated against a Tulane University professor by not seriously considering his argument that if those statues come down, the Andrew Jackson statue in Jackson Square must go as well.
The suit, filed by Richard Marksbury last week, presents another legal hurdle for the city’s efforts to take down the statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Lee Circle, Confederate President Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at the entrance to City Park, plus an Iberville Street marker honoring the Battle of Liberty Place, an uprising against the state’s biracial post-Civil War government.
The latest suit is unusual in several respects. Even though on its face it seems designed to add one more monument to the list of statues that should come down, it’s actually part of a complex strategy that aims to keep all five monuments standing.
“My petition isn’t calling for Jackson’s removal,” Marksbury, who is representing himself in the case, said Monday.
If the New Orleans City Council won’t allow Robert E. Lee to stand above Lee Circle, why sho…
Instead, the arguments Marksbury has made before the council and in his lawsuit seek to box in the city by arguing that Jackson meets all the criteria used to authorize the other statues’ removal. If that’s the case, he says, the city would either have to remove a statue that’s deeply identified with New Orleans or else agree to leave all the monuments standing.
Marksbury has been making that argument since early this year, when he appeared before a City Council committee to lay out the case against Jackson, a slaveowner who also authorized the “Trail of Tears,” the forced relocation of American Indian groups from the southeastern United States to west of the Mississippi River.
Jackson’s actions, he has said, meet the main criteria of the ordinance that allowed the other statues to be declared “nuisances” and slated for removal.
The council has rejected that argument, with several council members drawing a distinction between the statue of Jackson, who is being honored for his leadership at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, and the other markers, which remember people for their service in a war to preserve slavery or in a post-Civil War insurrection to establish a white-supremacist government.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu last week added a new twist to his call to remove monuments…
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration and the council have argued the four statues were part of a late-19th century effort to rehabilitate the image of the Confederacy and reassert white dominance in the south.
Marksbury’s suit, which was assigned to U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, is largely based on the lack of action after he made his argument against Jackson before the council.
Under the city ordinance allowing monuments’ removal, any registered voter in the city can bring a complaint against a statue and the council “may” then start a process to evaluate it for removal, including getting reports from various city departments and commissions.
That process was followed when Landrieu last summer called for the other statues to come down, but not for Marksbury’s claim, according to the suit. That and other elements of the process show favoritism toward the mayor and violate Marksbury’s right to equal protection under the laws, according to the suit.
“In a liberal democracy, the concept of equality means that when the law is applied, it must apply equally to all people,” according to the suit. “The protection of all citizens against discrimination effectuates the broader original purpose of the equal protection clause.”
Landrieu spokesman Hayne Rainey said the city will continue to press its plan to remove the Confederate monuments. In the past, lawyers for the city have said it followed proper procedures in seeking to take down the statues and that because the monuments and the land on which they sit are city property, it is free to decide they should no longer remain on public view.
The monuments’ removal, however, is stalled while another, unrelated federal suit, brought by the Monumental Task Committee, the Louisiana Landmarks Society, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana and Beauregard Camp No. 130, plays out.