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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Anonymous donor could fund Confederate monument removals; Chief Harrison calls Liberty Place statue "shameful"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 11:55 AM

click to enlarge Lee Circle in 2010. - FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • Lee Circle in 2010.

Removing New Orleans' Confederate landmarks could cost the city $126,000 to remove and relocate — and an anonymous donor already is committed to pay up. According to Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin, after estimating the cost, a donor is lined up to pay for the removal of four controversial monuments — Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway , P.G.T. Beauregard at City Park, Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, and the Battle of Liberty Place monument.

Opponents of the statues' removal have argued the cost would fall on taxpayers, and the city would be better off using the money for police and other essential services. In a "fiscal impact" letter sent to the New Orleans City Council, Kopplin wrote, "it is true that these landmarks have served for decades as geographic compass points on the city's grid, but how can this geographic compass compare to a great city's moral compass?"

"These four statues stand in direct contradiction to the ideal of freedom enshrined in our Constitution and their presence in our city was meant to perpetuate a false history that literally puts the Confederacy on a pedestal," he said. "True remembrance is required, not blind reverence."

Among the letters sent to the Council were recommendations from three city commissions — Historic District Landmarks Commissions, Human Relations Commission and Vieux Carre Commission — to remove the monuments, following public hearings and debate at City Hall. The Council entered the recommendations into the record at today's meeting. The Council will consider the monuments' removal under a "nuisance" law that says a public statue can be removed if it "honors, praises, or fosters ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens" or "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another."

George Patterson, director of Property Management, told the Council that the agency has spent more than $4,000 this year removing graffiti on the monuments, spending $500 to $2,500 per cleaning.

"These are funds that could be better spent maintaining city facilities," Patterson wrote. "It seems clear to me that continued maintenance of these four monuments constitutes an expense that outweighs the historic importance and/or basis for display."

New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison also offered support for removing the monuments, citing a lack of NOPD manpower to cover potentially violent protests — and a lack of respect that the Liberty Place monument shows for the city's police and its history.

"As Superintendent of Police, I need to be able to deploy officers in neighborhoods throughout the city to protect residents, not dedicate manpower to protecting inanimate statues," he said. "I must also be clear that I believe the existence of the Liberty Place monument to be particularly shameful. This monument is not simply a reminder of a troubled past; it was originally commissioned to explicitly celebrate an uprising that resulted in the deaths of [13] police officers."

The Metropolitan Police Department was "the first police force in New Orleans dedicated to enforcing justice for black residents of New Orleans as well as white residents," Harrison said.

The City Council is expected to vote on removing the monuments as early as Oct. 1 at its regular meeting.

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