The raging national debate over the place of Confederate iconography in public places has reached the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where two of the 10 flags that adorn Mandeville’s seal are relics of the Confederacy. Some city leaders say it may be time to discuss whether those emblems should be removed.
Mandeville’s logo features 10 flags: three U.S. flags, two Spanish, one French, one British and the flag of the Republic of West Florida, of which Mandeville was a part for the nation’s brief months of existence. The two others, which fall second and third along the right side of the seal, are Confederate: the battle flag and the flag of Louisiana during the Confederacy.
The city’s seal adorns not just official stationery but city and police vehicles, uniforms and the like.
Debate about Confederate images has increased sharply across the country since a white man opened fire after entering a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and sitting there for nearly a hour. Dylann Roof is accused of killing nine people before escaping. He was caught hours later, and the subsequent investigation has revealed his fondness for the Confederate battle flag and his white supremacist beliefs.
In the aftermath of the shooting, there has been a concerted effort to remove Confederate flags and symbols from public spaces in the South and the official flags of some states. The sentiment also is shared by public officials in New Orleans, where Mayor Mitch Landrieu has called for the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Lee Circle and other Confederate-era images from around the city.
Until now, however, the movement hadn’t reached the north shore.
The logos of other municipalities in St. Tammany Parish don’t have the rebel flag imagery. Those of both Covington and Abita Springs feature Native Americans drawing water from the towns’ vaunted springs, and Slidell’s flag features a camellia, trees and a sailboat.
Another reason is that nobody has really paid that much attention to the city’s logo. Confederate flags don’t fly in front of Mandeville’s City Hall, and the logo is not conspicuous.
As with many other municipalities, the flags were put on the logo as a reminder of the city’s history, said Councilman Rick Danielson. But that history has two sides: While the Confederacy definitely had an impact on Mandeville’s settlement and founding, it also stands as a symbol of prejudice for many people, he said.
“I would like to have a conversation about whether it should be removed,” he said.
Danielson is running for mayor against incumbent Donald Villere, and the relationship between the two has at times been strained. On this matter, however, they seem to have found some common ground.
“If it becomes an issue, it’s something that we would take a look at,” Villere said. But he said he didn’t think the flag’s presence on the logo is that big a deal.
“I think (the flags) are a part of our history, and they are representative of what flew over the city, not necessarily of a specific belief,” Villere said. He pointed to the front of City Hall, where nine flags fly, none higher than the American flag.
“We want to be known as a welcoming community,” he said. “That’s the one we fly over City Hall and the one we salute.”
No Confederate flag has flown over the city in the past few years, Villere said. One flag commonly associated with the Confederacy, the Bonnie Blue flag — a single white star on a blue background — flies there now, but that’s because it was the flag of the Republic of West Florida, a short-lived nation created in Louisiana’s easternmost parishes in 1810.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.