New Orleans now has the authority to remove Confederate monuments from city streets thanks to a ruling by a federal judge on Tuesday. This is a significant setback to many preservationists, including a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who have been fighting to keep them.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s ruling goes against several groups seeking to block the removal of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans, including a prominent bronze statue of General Robert E. Lee. As reported by ABC News, the city can now move forward on its plan to remove the monuments declared a public nuisance by the City Council.
In a previous report by the Inquisitr, the City Council supported the removal of the monuments through a 6 to 1 vote late last year. The bold move sparked tense debate and strong emotions about the city’s choice to sever ties with its Confederate past.
Barbier’s 62-page ruling was about the law and the city’s right to remove the monuments, not an action that opposes passion for history.
“The Court is well aware of the emotion and passions that are involved in this case. The Court does not judge the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the actions taken by the Mayor or the City. The only issue before the Court is a legal one: Does the City’s newly passed ordinance violate Plaintiffs’ statutory or constitutional rights?”
The plaintiffs in the case claimed the city violated constitutional rights through the removal process, the ordinance was unlawful, and historic preservation laws protect the monuments. They also argued that since the monuments are next to streetcar lines that were paid for by the federal government, the city does not have the right to remove them.
Barbier did not agree and said the plaintiffs were unable to prove that any of their claims. He also ruled that the city provided plenty of time for “due process” through public hearings, including the December 17 vote that approved the removal.
Considered a public nuisance, the city officials will be enforcing an ordinance that authorizes the removal of the monuments. They contend the memorials are a representation of beliefs that support racial, ethic, or religious authority as well as encourage vandalism and civic unrest.
Plaintiffs in the case, the Louisiana Landmarks Society, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, the Monumental Task Committee Inc., and the Beauregard Camp No. 130, plan to appeal the ruling. Through the process, they have asked Barbier for a restraining order to keep New Orleans’ city officials from removing the Confederate monuments until all appeals are exhausted.
None of the plaintiffs have publicly commented on the judge’s ruling.
Included as co-defendants in the lawsuit against the city were the U.S. Department of Transportation, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, and Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a group that supports the city’s removal ordinance.
“We are pleased with the Court’s sound ruling on this issue,” said Hayne Rainey, the press secretary for Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He did not comment on the city’s next move.
However, the mayor’s office has selected the Foundation for Louisiana to remove the monuments. Since the foundation is a private, nonprofit organization, it does not have to release the name of the actual contractor who will do the work. The foundation is not affiliated to the plaintiff with a similar name.
Supporters of keeping the monuments in place argue that removal will cause permanent damage to the Confederate statues. Yet, the city successfully disputed those claims by proving that a skilled contractor can remove them without harm.
The New Orleans’ Confederate monuments slated to be moved are the Robert E. Lee statue, a large equestrian statue of P.G.T. Beauregard, a Confederate general born in Louisiana; a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and a concrete pillar that commemorates a group of white supremacists who tried to stop a Reconstruction government in New Orleans. The city intends to store the monuments in a warehouse until a private park or museum is established where they can be displayed in a more appropriate setting.
[Photo by AP Photo/Gerald Herbert]