The Confederate monument removal debate begins

Landrieu proposes plan to remove Confederate monuments, rename prominent street

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - They are symbols and statues that have offended many for years: Civil War generals Robert E Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, and the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.

"I'm just back from California, and I'm really sad, but I thought we would be farther than this," said C.C. Campbell-Rock, as the New Orleans City Council took up a measure to do away with vestiges of the old South.

As South Carolina takes steps to remove the confederate flag in the wake of the murder of nine black people in a Charleston church, by an alleged white supremacist, the mayor takes steps to remove vestiges of the Confederacy here.

"How can we inspire a nation when our most cherished public spaces are dedicated to those who held in bondage our fellow Americans?" said Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a speech to the Council on Thursday.

The mayor also wants to rename Jefferson Davis Parkway after recently retired Xavier President Dr. Norman Francis

"How we discuss this is important, and hopefully we do this in a civil manner," Landrieu said.

But the debate got testy.

"I would like to propose that instead of destroying our history, we embellish it," said New Orleanian Jason Sutton as some sneered.

Sutton proposed leaving the Confederate statues alone, but adding statues to celebrate the Buffalo Soldiers and other African-American cultural figures.

"Confederate monuments are not a public nuisance," Sutton said. "They are history."

But others weren't buying it.

"No other country in the civilized world participated in events and then glorified the people who murdered," said New Orleans attorney Henry Julien.

While many say the debate is long overdue, others say it doesn't go far enough.

"In the French Quarter you have Andrew Jackson and E.D. White in front of the Supreme Court building - a member of the white league," said activist Malcolm Suber.

The Council approved a motion to send the issue to the Human Relations Commission to hold more hearings.

"This is going to open a discussion about race and history in our community and we need to have that discussion," councilman Jason Williams said.

Landrieu added, "Supremacy may be part of our past, but it should not be part of our future."

The mayor has asked the Historic Landmarks Commission and the police chief to weigh in on his proposal.

It's not clear how monument removal or replacement will be paid for, but Williams said that's a detail to be worked out later.

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