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The Fight Over Confederate Monuments Is Moving Beyond New Orleans

4 minute read

A crew of workers in New Orleans on Wednesday removed the statue of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, the third Confederate monument to come down in the city in the last month. But it won’t be the last.

As the city plans to remove a fourth and final monument — a statue of Robert E. Lee in New Orleans’ prominent Lee Circle — cities from St. Louis to Orlando are considering removing their own Confederate memorials. The push to take down the monuments has gained momentum since Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist, opened fire in a historically black church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015 and killed nine churchgoers.

Since then, New Orleans has been the most prominent city to take down memorials to Confederate soldiers, led by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who has forcefully pushed forward a plan first passed by the city council in 2015. Landrieu’s efforts drew supporters but also protests and threats of violence — a pattern that has played out in a growing number of cities that are following New Orleans’ lead. The most contentious battle over the monuments is shifting to Charlottesville, Va., where torch-wielding protesters organized by white nationalist Richard Spencer recently marched in support of keeping a statue of Gen. Lee in one of the city’s parks. In April, the Charlottesville City Council voted to sell the monument, but the sale was put on hold by a judge the following month.

Read more: New Orleans Mayor Defends Removing Confederate Monuments: ‘We’re Correcting History’

“We will not be replaced from this park,” Spencer told protesters last Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer pushed back against the demonstrations, saying in a statement: “I want everyone to know this: We reject this intimidation.”

In Orlando, the mayor announced earlier this week that the city would move a “Johnny Reb” statue from a city park to a cemetery south of downtown. The statue was first erected in 1911 and commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. According to the Orlando Sentinel, supporters waved Confederate battle flags at a recent city council meeting in support of keeping the monument in place.

“I believe this proposal balances the inclusive morals of our community today, while carefully preserving historic artifacts from our past that can be used to further educate and serve as important lessons in today’s society,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

There is some precedent for such a move. A Confederate cannon was removed from College Park Middle School, which was originally named Lee Middle School, to a city cemetery in March.

Read more: New Orleans Removes First of 4 Confederate Statues: ‘This is Not About Politics’

In St. Louis, the mayor is reportedly considering the possibility of removing a 1914 monument commemorating Confederate youth but is being held up by the cost. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mayor Lyda Krewson is looking at different options for removing the 40-ton memorial, which has been vandalized in the past and spray-painted with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

But some cities are seeing significant pushback from residents. In Shreveport, a citizen advisory committee is discussing whether to remove a 1906 monument commemorating a Confederate soldier and four generals, including Gens. Lee and Beauregard, that stands in front of the parish’s courthouse. The commission is holding multiple public meetings to discuss the monument’s fate. But according to the Shreveport Times, a majority of people at the first hearing supported keeping the Confederate monument in place.

“We all have history. We didn’t plan it, but it’s our history,” David Cox, a former Caddo Parish Commissioner, said at the meeting, according to the Shreveport Times. “I was told one time that what you do leaves your legacy. You take down this monument, and you’re going to have a legacy of killing history.”

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