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Citizens seeking to keep segregation-era statues in place lose again in court

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

People fighting to block the city from removing segregation-era monuments from public spaces lost another round in court Friday.

"We still feel like our case has a lot of merit,” said Pierre McGraw, president of the Monumental Task Committee, which filed a lawsuit to stop the removal.

McGraw and his attorneys sought relief in Civil Court in New Orleans, which is a state court.

In December, the City Council voted to declare the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, PGT Beauregard, and Liberty Place monuments as public nuisances. Lawyers for McGraw argued before Judge Piper Griffin that the city had violated its own nuisance ordinance because three of the monuments have not been the scene of violent protests. But the judge said she did not find that the city breached its responsibility under the ordinance, nor did she find that anyone’s constitutional rights were being violated by the city’s plans to remove the monuments.

"We would sure like to keep them up, we don't think there's any harm in leaving them in place as they are. I mean, they've been there forever, and that's what we were hoping to convince a judge of,” McGraw said.

A city attorney told the judge that they followed the law precisely.

Ultimately, the judge refused to issue the preliminary injunction the plaintiffs sought, and that pleased some who have been very vocal in their support of efforts to have the statues removed.

"I think the judge made a very clear, comprehensive opinion based on the information that was stated according to the law,” said Angela Kinlaw, of the group Take ‘Em Down NOLA.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for the removal of the monuments last year. He said they do not represent what the city stands for now or in the future.

"We remain committed to the removal of all symbols to white supremacy within the city of New Orleans as a push toward racial and economic justice,” said Kinlaw.

And Judge Griffin's ruling came a day after the council voted to allow city government to accept a $170,000 donation to pay for the removal of the monuments.

Still, McGraw will appeal the judge’s ruling.

"We're going to pursue every legal option we can,” he said.

"They're going to do what they're going to do, and we're going to do what we're going to do,” Kinlaw said.

The Landrieu administration said the city will seek public bids from contractors to have the monuments moved.

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