Landrieu calls for removal of monuments to confederacy

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Published: Jun. 24, 2015 at 10:14 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2015 at 11:21 PM CDT
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Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Wednesday that it's time to remove statues and other symbols in the city that honor the confederacy.

A tourist from California paused Wednesday afternoon at the corner of Jefferson Davis Parkway and Canal Street.

He said he felt compelled to honor the statue of Jefferson Davis, who was elected president of the Confederate States that fought to keep slavery in place.

It was his first visit to the city.

"My first time down here, I was actually just a little taken aback," he said after stopping at the monument. "I know that there is a lot of pride, about, you know, being from the South, and this kind of goes along with it, but I don't know. Not being from here it was a little bit of a shock," Joe Zupas said.

Landrieu said the monuments are not in line with the city now and its future.

"As you look around this city the symbols don't really reflect who we were historically. They may reflect where we were in a particular point in history that were created by people who were in power during a very short period of time," Landrieu said.

Landrieu called for the removal of the Jefferson Davis monument, as well as others honoring the confederacy like the Robert E. Lee statue and with the P.T. Beauregard which is near City Park.

"Robert E. Lee was a very important historical figure not only in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana but nationally as well, but whether or not that's the appropriate place to recognize him, I think is open for discussion. That's really what museums are for," Landrieu said.

The mayor made his comments at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts during an event marking months of discussion by locals on race and reconciliation called Welcome Table.

"Another recent study showed that 75 percent of white people have zero non-white friends, meaning our social groups are segregated, our professional groups are segregated, not to the fault of our own but just breeds a lack of understanding," stated Sam Battan, who is white and is part in the initiative.

"We can reconcile the hatred and the anger and the pain that evolved from race and the violence from race and slavery," said Carol Waiters Carter, another participant.

Landrieu said he is not trying to rewrite history, but the symbols and monuments don't align with the city's future.

"I am not trying to ask people to forget our history and those who participated in it, but there are certain spaces - our state capitol being one of them, our City Hall grounds being another - public neutral grounds where those spaces ought to reflect really who we are as a people," said the mayor.

Still, there is pushback, and the mayor expected that.

"It's absolutely ridiculous to try and cut pieces of Louisiana history, American history, Southern history," said Thomas Taylor, Commander of the Louisiana Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

He said Landrieu and others have been influenced by the church shooting in South Carolina. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white male is being held in connection with the church massacre. He allegedly stated he wanted to spark a race war.

"Politicians everywhere are having a knee jerk reaction to a tragedy in South Carolina," said Taylor.

Landrieu said he believes city council approval, as well as approval by some other entities may be required to remove the controversial monuments.

"Hopefully we can do this not in a divisive way and in a way that unites the city," Landrieu said.

Landrieu said street names should also be a part of the discussion.

"I think every thing's in play. I'm not really calling for the wholesale change of everything in New Orleans, what I'm calling for is an open and honest conversation about what the symbols reflect, who we are, whether they're appropriately placed or not," he said.

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