City officials will begin holding public meetings next week to discuss the future of four monuments in New Orleans that have come under new scrutiny as officials across the South reconsider the wisdom of leaving Confederate symbols in public places.
The Historic District Landmarks Commission and the Human Relations Commission will kick things off with separate meetings on Aug. 13 as part of a 60-day period of discussion before the New Orleans City Council considers an ordinance that would label the monuments as “nuisances” and authorize their relocation.
The four monuments are the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee atop a column in Lee Circle; a monument to the so-called Battle of Liberty Place and the Crescent City White League, a white supremacist group during the Reconstruction era, near the foot of Canal Street; a statue honoring Jefferson Davis, the president of the short-lived Confederate States of America, on the parkway also named for him; and a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard in a traffic circle at the entrance to City Park.
The HDLC meeting will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the City Council chamber at City Hall.
The Human Relations Commission meeting will follow in the same place at 6 p.m. People wishing to speak at the HRC meeting will have to submit a comment card by 7 p.m., a notice from the city said.
The two meetings will be televised on the same cable channel that carries City Council meetings.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu formally asked the council last month to pass an ordinance that would declare the monuments to be nuisances and allow for their removal.
Landrieu’s call followed a shooting at a South Carolina church that left nine people dead and launched a renewed national discussion about Confederate symbols. A self-identified white supremacist, who was photographed displaying the rebel flag, 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.
In addition to the HDLC and HRC, the official discussion of the statues in New Orleans will involve comments and recommendations from the Vieux Carre Commission, the City Attorney’s Office and various top officials.
Public reaction to Landrieu’s call has been mixed. After an initial outpouring of support for the plan, some residents have said removing the statues would be akin to censoring history. Others have argued that the city should focus its attention on more pressing issues, such as crime. Demonstrations in favor of the monuments have been held at the Lee and Beauregard statues.
Last week, Landrieu invited a select group of citizens to private meetings on the topic. They spent a day discussing how they would feel about removing the statues or leaving them in place, though they did not make any recommendations. The meetings were sponsored by Landrieu’s “Welcome Table New Orleans” initiative on race and racial reconciliation.