Monument supporters hope legislation halts removal

Updated: Mar. 26, 2017 at 9:50 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A fundraiser at Rock-n-Bowl, Sunday, had a few hundred people supporting the efforts of the Monumental Task Committee as the group attempts to keep its fight to save Confederate-era statues the city plans to remove following a court decision.

"The court decisions were a blow, but it's far from over. We have a real good opportunity in the legislature this time around. It's coming up soon and hopefully will get some intervention on the state level," said Pierre McGraw, President of the Monumental Task Committee.

McGraw said at least two bills in Baton Rouge next session could help save the monuments and protect future monuments that may come under fire. He said one would focus on protecting historical monuments similar to other legislation passed in neighboring states and another would focus on protecting monuments to US military figures.

However, groups like Take 'Em Down NOLA, an activist organization that seeks to remove symbols of white supremacy across New Orleans, think it might be too little too late as they seek to extend their vision for the city.

"We keep it in that context and I understand that we still have a lot longer to go, a lot further to go, these four, we've always been talking about much more, this whole city needs a reupholstering," Quess, an activist with the group, said.

The committee is concerned the removal of the statues sets an unwanted precedent for the city.

"This is the true slippery slope, in fact, it's a highly lubricated vertical plane where nothing's going to stick on it and people don't realize it but the monumental Pandora's Box is open," McGraw said.

In fact, Take 'Em Down NOLA has a list of monuments, parks, and schools, like Lusher and Tulane University, even Touro Hospital, they say are symbols of white supremacy and should be changed or removed.

"Change the name of Tulane University and Touro Hospital? Judah Touro, one of the great philanthropist ever in America! So it's getting out of hand and we've got to stop it or we won't recognize our city," McGraw said.

"When people talk about a slippery slope, I contend that those who have been subjugated, the majority of blacks in the city have been on the bottom end of a slippery slope for the past hundred plus years anyway," Quess said.

The committee doesn't want to ignore the history attached to the city's statues, instead, it seeks a compromise, but the opposition believes it's already compromised enough.

"Let's show a little tolerance and respect for those monuments you may not agree with, we all have to live in this community. We could put up interpretive plaques for some of those monuments that may seem a little difficult to understand today, but the important, one simplest, put up new monuments to new or forgotten heroes," McGraw said.

"I think the compromise has already been us compromising our humanity and subjugating our self-esteem and our access to basic human needs and things that a lot of our counterparts and New Orleanian brothers and sisters take for granted," Quess said.

Take 'Em Down NOLA said it will ask the city next month to begin removal of additional statues and rename streets and schools.

The Monumental Task Committee said it will continue the fight and continue the care and upkeep of the city's several dozen public statues.

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