Robert McClendon, The Times-Picayune, July 9, 2015
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has formally asked the city council to begin the legal process required to have four public monuments, including the statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee Circle, declared public “nuisances” and taken down.
In a letter addressed to City Council President Jason Williams, Landrieu asks the council to hold a hearing to determine whether the following monuments should be removed: Lee’s statue, the statue of Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway, the PGT Beauregard equestrian statue at the entrance to City Park and the Battle of Liberty Place monument on Iberville Street near the riverfront.
Landrieu is scheduled to address the council on the subject at noon Thursday (July 9) during its business meeting.
The letter invokes a 1993 ordinance that gives the City Council authority to declare public monuments nuisances and have them removed.
The law sets up a three-point test to determine if a statue may be removed. Briefly stated, the council must find that the monument:
* Praises a subject at odds with the message of equal rights under the law.
* Has been or may become the site of violent demonstrations.
* Constitutes an expense to maintain that outweighs its historic importance and/or the reason for its display on public property.
The language of the first provision in particular seems tailored to the removal of Confederate statuary, as it makes a clear reference to the 14th Amendment, which was added to the U.S. Constitution after the Civil War and made black Americans full citizens with equal protection under the law.
According to that provision, any monument that, in the council’s view, “honors praises or fosters ideologies . . . in conflict with the requirements of equal protection,” would be subject to removal. Also eligible: anything that honors those who “participated in the killing of public employees of the city or the state” or anything that lauds any “violent actions” to promote “ethnic, religious or racial supremacy.”