Potential bidders for Confederate monument removal ask to do work overnight, remain anonymous _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--The sun moves behind the statue of Confederate Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle in New Orleans shortly after the city council voted 6-1 to remove the Lee statue, a statue of Confederate Jefferson Davis, Confederate P.G.T. Beauregard, and a monument memorializing a White League white supremacist uprising, in New Orleans, La. Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015.

One of the leaders of the effort to keep four monuments to Confederate leaders and a white supremacist militia standing in New Orleans is making another last-ditch effort to stop Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration from taking them down.

In the wake of a federal judge’s ruling that a similar suit in his court had little chance of success, Monumental Task Committee President Pierre McGraw’s new lawsuit — which reiterates similar arguments — likely is a long shot.

The new suit was filed Wednesday in Civil District Court but seems unlikely to delay plans by the city to remove the monuments. Almost immediately, Judge Piper Griffin rejected a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the city from moving forward.

Unlike the federal suit, brought by four organizations, the Civil District Court case was brought by McGraw personally. McGraw said he had been advised by his attorney not to talk about the case.

The suit focuses on some of the arguments rejected by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, some of which the judge indicated were matters for state courts rather than the federal bench.

Among the arguments are the claim that the City Council violated McGraw’s right to due process when it voted to declare the monuments a “nuisance” under an ordinance that allows the city to take down statues that meet certain criteria, including fostering ideologies that conflict with constitutional provisions providing equal protection for all people.

Throughout that debate, the Landrieu administration argued that the statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard and a monument to a rebellion by a white militia against the state’s Reconstruction-era government were designed to assert the power of white elites in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The suit claims McGraw has a “property interest” in the monuments because he and his group have worked to clean, restore and maintain the statues. That argument got no traction with Barbier.

Specifically, the suit says the City Council did not do enough to prove the monuments met the criteria laid out in the “nuisance” ordinance and that under state law, the city should have had to demonstrate additional problems with the monuments to declare them a nuisance.

It also references an article of the Louisiana Constitution that says the people of the state have a “right to preserve, foster and promote their respective linguistic and cultural origins.” That provision is largely aimed at protecting Cajun culture.

“Regardless of whether the Civil War is regarded as a bid to preserve slavery or a fight for states’ rights, it is undeniably a formative event in the history of Louisiana, and it is the origin of much of the historic and cultural heritage of the state,” according to the suit, which adds that McGraw “enjoys viewing the monuments on a regular basis, working to preserve the monuments and identifies his own history and culture with the monuments.”

The city has not said when it will be begin removing the monuments or if it will provide any public notice before work begins.

It also is unclear whether a new contractor has been hired. The first firm selected by the administration, H&O Investments, dropped out after its employees, owner and his family received threats. Days later, a Lamborghini belonging to the company’s owner was found torched.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.