Mayor Mitch Landrieu advanced his call for the removal of four New Orleans Confederate monuments Thursday by urging the New Orleans City Council to begin a legal process that would officially label them as a “nuisance.”
Appearing before the council at its regular monthly meeting, Landrieu called on council members to hold a hearing and solicit comments and recommendations from various city offices, including the Historic District Landmarks Commission, in advance of drafting an ordinance that would declare the monuments a nuisance and allow for their removal.
The monuments at issue include the imposing statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the St. Charles Avenue traffic circle; a monument to the Crescent City White League, a white supremacist group, located near the foot of Canal Street; a statue honoring Jefferson Davis, the president of the short-lived Confederate States of America; and another to Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard.
Landrieu also proposed renaming Jefferson Davis Parkway for Noman Francis, the recently retired, longtime Xavier University president
Landrieu said the monuments “belie our progress and does not reflect who we truly are or who we want to be.”
Landrieu said the divisive monuments and symbols should be replaced with ones that reflect unity, peace and the city’s culture.
The Confederate monuments should be put in “proper place” and proper context Landrieu said, somewhere that they are not held in a state of reverence.
The council adopted a motion to begin a two-month period of discussion.
Still, the council heard from residents both in favor of and opposed to removing the statues at Thursday’s meeting. The majority of speakers urged the city to remove the monuments, calling them symbols of white supremacy. Some said this step was belated and urged the city to go further and change the names of schools and streets named for slave owners.
The discussion in New Orleans follows a shooting at a South Carolina church that left nine people dead and launched a renewed national discussion about Confederate symbols. Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old self-identified white supremacist, is accused of shooting the six black women and three black men to death at a Bible study meeting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
The incident has led to calls for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from state grounds, and several major retailers, including Wal-Mart, have said they will no longer carry products depicting the flag. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to sign a bill this week allowing for the removal of the flag at the capitol in that state.