Appeals court clears the way for removal of New Orleans' Confederate-era monuments

Court ruling clears way for removal of Confederate-era monuments

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - On Monday a federal appeals court ruled that the city's Confederate-era monuments can be removed.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued the following statement on the decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals:

"Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the City's ability to control its property. This win today will allow us to begin to turn a page on our divisive past and chart the course for a more inclusive future. Moving the location of these monuments—from prominent public places in our city where they are revered to a place where they can be remembered—changes only their geography, not our history. Symbols matter and should reflect who we are as a people. These monuments do not now, nor have they ever reflected the history, the strength, the richness, the diversity or the soul of New Orleans.

"These monuments will be preserved until an appropriate place to display them is determined.  

"Once removed, we will have the opportunity to join together and select new unifying symbols that truly reflect who we are today."

In February 2015, Landrieu signed an ordinance calling for the relocation of four Confederate monuments from prominent locations in New Orleans: the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle, the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway, the P.G.T Beauregard equestrian statue on Esplanade at the entrance to City Park and the Battle of Liberty Place Monument at Iberville Street.

During a special meeting of the New Orleans City Council, an ordinance to declare the monuments public nuisances was considered at the request of council members Jason Rogers Williams, Jared C. Brossett, James Austin Gray II and Nadine M. Ramsey. The members of the City Council voted six to one in support of this ordinance.

The city said it anticipates that private dollars will be used to pay for the removal of the monuments. It said bids for the removal will be released soon. The city will also now begin the legal process necessary to remove the Liberty Place monument, which is currently subject to a federal court order.

The city said once removed, the monuments will be stored in a city-owned warehouse until further plans can be developed for a park or museum site "where the monuments can be put in a fuller context."

In response to the court's ruling, the Monumental Task Force Committee, Inc., a group that supports keeping the monuments in place, released the following:

"Monumental Task Committee, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana and Beauregard Camp No. 130 are carefully reviewing the Fifth Circuit's decision, and appreciate the time and effort the panel of three judges spent reaching its conclusions and writing its opinion. The plaintiffs are obviously disappointed in the ruling, but note that the Court's own rules allow a party to ask all 14 active judges of the Fifth Circuit to reconsider the appeal. In fact, several of the Court's important decisions were initially made by a panel of three judges before a final determination by the full court. Monumental Task Committee, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana and Beauregard Camp No. 130 are weighing whether to ask for a rehearing en banc that will allow all the judges of the Fifth Circuit to take part in this critically important decision.

"Despite this setback, the non-profit organizations that filed the original suit will continue to argue that all the City's historic monuments and cultural sites should be preserved and protected, and that a more appropriate response to calls for the monuments' removal is a program to include explanatory plaques and markers to present these individuals in the context of their time. Furthermore, in anticipation of the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans, these same organizations would like to work with the City in an ambitious effort to erect additional monuments and cultural sites that honor all those who participated in our City's history."

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