The Iberville Parish Council voted unanimously Tuesday to remove a Confederate statue outside the parish's old courthouse building — the latest in an historic symbol of slavery being removed during America's present reckoning with racism and police brutality.
"It needed to be removed because it's evidence of racism, hatred and bigotry, oppression and depression," said Raheem Pierce, the council's youngest member who was one of the item's strongest supporters. "It just needed to be removed."
The statue is of a Confederate soldier and it stands outside the old courthouse on Railroad Avenue in Plaquemine.
Pierce said he was surprised at the unanimous vote and pleased to see the entire council coming together, across racial and generational divides, to support the same goal. The monument will be placed in storage upon its removal, according to the resolution.
The statue's presence has irked some in the community for years, but council members started seriously discussing its possible removal within the past several days since protests erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, Pierce said.
He said he hopes that in the future the council will consider removing a series of plaques with the names of plantations and their owners, also outside the old courthouse.
Pierce won election to the council last fall, the parish's youngest elected official. He was still in high school when he started campaigning and said his win was a sign that parish residents wanted a fresh voice to represent them.
Several members of the public spoke during the council meeting Tuesday night, expressing their support for removing the statue. One man said "everybody in this room should be offended" when they drive by the statue if they're really committed to moving their community forward, according to the parish's online post of the meeting.
Council members themselves didn't discuss the item publicly, but all voted in favor of the removal. Council Chairman Matthew Jewell said the Daughters of the Confederacy actually owns the statue and could claim it sometime in the future. But for the time being, it will be held in storage.
The council's vote came as other cities and towns in Louisiana and throughout the nation grapple with similar questions about whether to remove statues and monuments that pay tribute to the Confederacy.
New Orleans protesters removed the bust of John McDonogh, a former slave owner, in Duncan Plaza and rolled it into the Mississippi River on Saturday. Two people accused of driving the statue to the river were later arrested and have since been released from jail.
Meanwhile the East Feliciana Parish Police Jury deferred a planned discussion Monday night about whether to take down that parish's Confederate statue, which also stands outside the courthouse. A criminal defendant tried unsuccessfully to have his case tried in another parish last year, arguing that statue symbolizes "oppression and racial intolerance" in addition to "nostalgia over the institution of slavery."