The New Orleans City Council soon will hold a series of town hall meetings to begin the process of removing four Confederate monuments.
Last month, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced his intention to replace the monuments — Robert E. Lee in Lee Circle, the Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue outside New Orleans City Park, the Jefferson Davis monument on Jefferson Davis Parkway, and the Liberty Monument (which honors the Crescent City White League). "Symbols really do matter," Landrieu said at the time.
At a July 9 council meeting, Landrieu asked how New Orleans "can expect to inspire a nation" when its central landmarks include symbols of white supremacy. "It's about more than Robert E. Lee, the man," the mayor said. "This discussion is not about them. It's about us."
The proposal drew passionate speeches from all sides in public comment, which the mayor did not stay to hear. One man said Landrieu wasn't going far enough, and that for a real impact to be made, the city should also consider removing John McDonogh from the public schools across the city that bear his name. In addition to being one of Louisiana's largest landowners and a New Orleans philanthropist, McDonogh owned slaves.
"History is what makes us," said another man. "It's who we are. If you change parts you don't like, you make a huge mistake." At this, someone in the Council Chamber yelled, "It's white supremacy!"
After two hours of lively discussion, the council voted 6-0 on the motion to move forward on removing the statues. Councilman James Gray was absent.