New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams is apparently not ready to face another four-hour free-for-all over the fate of the city’s contested monuments to Confederate leaders and a Reconstruction-era uprising.
After six months of impassioned public debate about the four statues in question, the council is scheduled to vote Thursday on an ordinance that would declare each of them a public nuisance and allow their removal to a warehouse.
After a long, raucous public hearing on the issue last week — during which two people were ejected from the council chamber — Williams promulgated special rules of conduct Monday for the public comment period that will precede the vote.
Speakers will get two minutes each to address the council, which is typical. But debate will be cut off after an hour, with each side given 30 minutes, Williams said. And no one will be allowed to cede the balance of their time to another speaker, which is ordinarily allowed.
The speakers will alternate between those for and those against the proposition.
In his statement on the special rules, Williams also made a point of encouraging those who have already weighed in on the monuments to sit out this round. “The council would like to hear new voices on this issue,” he said.
The debate so far has revealed searing divisions over how to regard the controversial monuments, which include statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, plus a tribute to the Battle of Liberty Place, a white-supremacist uprising against the state’s Reconstruction-era government.
Some view the statues as simply a part of the city’s history that ought not to be thrown out, or as necessary reminders of past wrongs; others see them as lingering public tributes to slavery and racial oppression.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who first proposed taking down the statues in June, appears to have the votes he needs to remove them, although Councilwomen Stacy Head and LaToya Cantrell came out against the measure last week.