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Demonstrators speak during a rally calling for the removal of a statue, foreground, of Henry Watkins Allen, the former Louisiana Confederate governor and general, Sunday, June 28, 2020, in a courtyard of the West Baton Rouge Parish Library. The statue faces the parish courthouse,which is across the street.

The Port Allen City Council on Wednesday backed a proposal to remove a statue of Henry Watkins Allen, amid mounting calls to move the monument memorializing Louisiana’s last Confederate governor from its perch facing the parish courthouse.

City leaders unanimously passed a resolution that amplifies support to move the statue to the West Baton Rouge Parish Museum. Though the city lacks the power to transfer the monument, the resolution may give the removal effort a jolt when the parish council, which has the final say, votes on the matter Thursday evening.

"I think we should have someone who represented the entire parish," said city council member Brandon Brown. 

Calls to the move the statue have grown in recent weeks as protests decrying racism and police brutality have erupted across the country following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Local activists have said the statue of Allen, a slave owner who served as the 17th governor of Louisiana and exiled himself in Mexico after the Civil War, is a painful reminder of slavery and the racial injustices that have endured ever since.

Dozens of protesters recently marched through the streets of Port Allen demanding the statue come down, with many vowing to return until it does.

"To those he enslaved for many years, he was no hero," said Clerice Lacy Carter, a Port Allen resident who's led recent calls for the statue's removal. "The museum would be a better place to tell his story, the good, the bad and the ugly."

Supporters for keeping the statue at the courthouse have said its removal would strip a part of Louisiana's history, while also pointing to Allen's contributions to the state. 

Henry Allen served as a wartime general for the Confederate army before being elected as Louisiana’s governor in 1863. After Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender to the Union army, Allen voiced support for continuing the struggle against the North, while suggesting arming slaves to aid in the fight, according to state records

Port Allen itself bears his name. It was changed more than 150 years ago from the town’s original name, La Ville de St. Michel.

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Some activists have acknowledged the namesake, but their focus has mainly been on moving the statue. Changing the city’s name would be a logistical challenge and a significant undertaking, said Mayor Richard Lee III. 

“Yes, the city of Port Allen is named after Mr. (Allen), but we don’t have to have this statue in the center of the city and the center of the courthouse where justice is being provided,” Lee said. 

Mirroring a recent trend across the nation, several municipalities in Louisiana have considered or taken action on uprooting public monuments and renaming streets and landmarks with ties to slavery and colonialism.

In some cities, protesters have torn down monuments, including the bust of former slave owner John McDonogh that was ripped down and rolled into the Mississippi River in New Orleans last month.

Confederate statue to stay as East Feliciana Police Jury rejects proposal to remove it

Other parishes and cities have pursued legal and legislative paths to move Confederate monuments, while some have cited concerns their monuments could become potential targets.

The Iberville Parish Council last month voted to take down a Confederate statue that has stood in front of the parish’s old courthouse in Plaquemine for more than a century.

Police jurors in East Feliciana this week rejected a proposal to remove a Confederate soldier statue in front of the parish courthouse in Clinton, a vote that split along three Black and 5 White voting jurors.

The West Baton Rouge Parish Council will hear public comments about the statue before taking action Thursday evening at the Port Allen Community Center. 

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