Petition demands New Orleans change law to return Confederate monuments

 

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Gen. Robert E. Lee is down. So is Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis. The Battle of Liberty Place monument? Nothing but a naked pedestal. They’ve been that way for weeks (NOLA.com).

But that doesn’t mean the staunchest supporters of New Orleans’ controversial Confederate monuments have given up hope. Businessman Frank Stewart is circulating a petition trying to change the city law and resurrect the four monuments, which Mayor Mitch Landrieu has described as homages to racial intimidation and a revisionist view of history that insists the Civil War wasn’t about slavery (NOLA.com).

The petition seeks to embed in the New Orleans Home Rule Charter the basic tenets of the coalition bent on saving those statues and other odes to the Confederacy scattered in stone and signage around the city. These include:

  • The immediate return of the four statues removed in April and May to their public perches.
  • The requirement of a popular vote on any proposal to remove any statue, plaque or commemoration to a person or event.
  • The exemption of any monument older than 50 years from being subjected to the city’s public nuisance law, which the City Council invoked in December 2015 to remove the four Confederate monuments.
  • Let anyone or any entity domiciled in New Orleans defend the charter changes — should they pass — in court.
  • Give the Monumental Task Committee, which Stewart supports, the right to maintain the monuments.
  • Establish rules to relocate any commemorations that must be moved for public works projects.

The petition, by law, needs 10,000 signatures from registered voters in New Orleans to allow its supporters to introduce the proposed changes. They would then require a majority vote at the polls to become law (NOLA.com).

Stewart couldn’t immediately be reached Wednesday (NOLA.com).

Stewart and Landrieu clashed in a public spat over the monuments after the mayor identified Stewart as one of a cadre of wealthy New Orleanians fighting against his efforts to remove the monuments. Landrieu soon afterward apologized to Stewart for singling him out. But that didn’t stop Stewart from going after Landrieu in public ads he placed in local media, including The Times-Picayune.

Landrieu explained his reasons for taking down the statues in a now-famous speech given as the last of them, Lee’s statue, was being dismantled.

“They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history,” the mayor said. “These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.”

The city has stored the monuments in lots and warehouses while deciding where to put them permanently. The Landrieu administration intends to open up a bidding process for the statues, but only under the condition that none of them can be displayed outdoors in Orleans Parish.

The announcement for the petition describes it as a “unification” of several pro-monument groups: The Monumental Task Committee, Save Nola Heritage, Save Our Circle, Nola Petition Captains and Leave New Orleans Monuments Be. They’ve raised $50,000 for the effort, according to the announcement (NOLA.com).