Council gets official letters, reports on removing Confederate monuments

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The City Council has received official letters from Police Chief Michael Harrison and some local commissions urging removal of four segregation-era monuments.This as Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration made public that an anonymous donor has stepped up to pay for their removal.

Landrieu has said that the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Circle and the PGT Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and Battle of Liberty Place monuments need to be removed because they do not align with present-day ideology and the city's future.

"As Superintendent of Police, I need to be able to deploy officers in neighborhoods throughout the city to protect residents, not dedicate manpower to protecting inanimate statues," Harrison wrote.

Letters were also received from the Historic District Landmarks Commission as well as the Vieux Carre' Commission recommending removal of the monuments.

"I don't know where each of the council members stand. I know where I stand, and where I stand right now I am likely to vote to remove the monuments," Councilman James Gray said.

Though the council was not poised to vote Thursday on the administration's request to have the monuments removed, opponents showed up to speak anyway. Some in the audience wore shirts with the words "Save Our Circle" - the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Circle.

"Removing that is hiding part of our actually where we came from, especially coming up on our 300th birthday. how do you celebrate 300 years by not acknowledging part of our history," said Tim Shea Carroll of Save Our Circle.

He said he would favor increasing the number of statues, not reducing them.

"Let's build up more monuments, let's tell the entire story," Carroll said.

But many in the community believe the monuments speak to a painful and ugly period that is not a part of the city's future.

Deputy Mayor and CAO Andy Kopplin wrote in a letter to the council dated Sept. 14 that the estimated cost of removing the four monuments was $126,000, and that the city had received a commitment from an anonymous donor to pay for the removal of the monuments.

Late Thursday afternoon, the mayor's office made public an updated letter from Kopplin to the council which stated that the total estimated cost of removing and transporting the monuments - including contingency costs from the city's Capital Projects Division which were not previously specified - is now $144,000.

City Hall said it does not anticipate removing the pedestal of the Robert E. Lee statue, and that if needed, the city can store the monuments at one of its facilities at no additional cost.

"There wasn't any divisiveness up until now," Carroll.

And some people against what the mayor is calling for are not convinced the monuments are public nuisances, so they're calling for evidence.

"We're trying to address the letters that actually are being submitted to remove them, particularly ones that actually address the three sections of the nuisance code. We want to see the records that show that the monuments, spent $4,000 in removing graffiti this year because there's an organization that does it for free," Carroll said.

"Certainly we're not going to melt it down. It is part of our history and you don't just destroy your history. I think we are likely to remove it from a place of honor, but put it in a place of merely for historical references," Gray said.

Gray believes the council may be ready to vote on the issue in October.

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