Judge Rules Against Opponents of Confederate Statue Removal

Cain Burdeau, AP, February 5, 2016

A state judge ruled Friday against an effort by preservationists to stop the removal of prominent Confederate monuments in New Orleans.

Civil District Court Judge Piper D. Griffin said the city did not act improperly in deciding to take down four monuments tied to Confederate history, including a towering column and statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Griffin denied a request to stop the city from moving forward with its plans. The plaintiffs said they would appeal.

The state suit deals with three of the four monuments: statues of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, P.G.T. Beauregard, a Louisiana-born Confederate general, and Lee. A fourth monument, an obelisk to the White League’s attempt to overthrow a biracial government after the Civil War, is under a federal consent decree.

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The plaintiffs also argued that the city’s ordinance allowing the removal was flawed.

The ordinance says a monument can be removed if it may provoke violent protests or if its presence would cause the city to incur maintenance expenses, such as having to remove graffiti. The law also says a monument can be removed if it is deemed a nuisance for fostering supremacist ideologies.

“The three monuments here have never been the scene of violent demonstrations,” [plaintiff lawyer John B.] Dunlap argued.

[City attorney Adam] Swensek countered that the ordinance specified that a monument could be removed if it might become a scene for violent protest. He added that a national “groundswell of racial tension” could make the monuments “a lightning rod and powder keg for that type of violence.”

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