A NEW ORLEANS TRIBUNE EDITORIAL
Imagine our surprise early on the morning of April 24 upon learning that contractors were busy taking down what was perhaps the biggest nuisance of them all—the monument dedicated to the Battle of Liberty Place and White supremacy.
Then, Mayor Mitch Landrieu did it again in the wee hours of Thursday, May 11, by taking down the Jefferson Davis monument on Jefferson Davis Parkway.
We nursed our May issue in anticipation of the next monument to be removed. And we were not disappointed. The following Tuesday, work began to take down P,G.T. Beauregard.
Okay, we know we had a slightly different view than many of our friends on the Confederate-era monuments debate. Back when this debate resurfaced in 2015, we editorialized that “We Got 99 Problems, And Lee Circle Ain’t One”. It’s not that we didn’t think they shouldn’t come down. We said it wasn’t worth debating. For our part, we believed we should focus on what we felt were much more salient issues. Still, we could agree to disagree and appreciate the effort and energy of those who took up this cause. We have said as much. That is what we believe
And with that, we first want to send a shout out to Take ‘Em Down NOLA, the coalition of individuals and organizations that pushed relentlessly for the removal of the monuments. The tenacity of its members has not gone unnoticed. You are the heroes in this battle.
Next, we have to give it up to Mayor Mitch Landrieu for taking the bold steps that needed to be taken—from opening the public sphere to this debate again through his own unapologetic espousal of the monuments’ removal to making the call to get crews out late at night and early in the morning to take monuments down.
It’s really been a long time coming. Back in 2015, a city ordinance paved the way for these monuments to come down. But legal wrangling and protests from those against their removal stood in the way. This March, a ruling from a federal judge in favor of the city sealed the deal. However, the only bid received for the removal of the contract after the judge’s ruling came in at a whopping $600,000, with the contractor citing safety risks and insurance costs as concerns.
For his part, we imagine that the Mayor was done talking about it. He should have been. We were certainly tired of hearing about it. We were over the critics threatening violence against contractors who dared to do the work. We were over the ongoing argument about whether these statues were symbols of history or hate. And when the one lone contractor offered a bid that at $600,000 was more than 3.5 times the city’s budget for the statues’ removal because of security and safety risks, we were definitely done. We’re with you Mr. Mayor. It’s not very often that quoting internet sensation in an editorial makes this much sense, but in this case as Sweet Brown says, “Aint nobody got time for that.”
So to move forward with what the city had every legal and moral right to do, the Mayor ordered the first of the monuments to be taken down in the wee hours of the morning with a small army of NOPD officers on hand . . . just in case. If that’s the move he needed to make, so be it.
Still, there are those who criticize the mayor for using the cover of night to begin the process of removing the monuments. They argue that somehow that was a sign of the city bending to the will of those who fought against the monuments’ removal. We say it was an efficient and effective move. If that’s what had to be done, then it was well done, Mr. Mayor. We don’t see the move as a sign of trepidation, at all. In fact, we see it as a sign of resolve and determination to create a solution to a problem. Nonetheless, we get that you just can’t please everyone.
The reality is this thing had really gotten out of hand. Here we were—nearly two years, a series of public meetings, a city ordinance, a bunch of protests, threats of violence and at least one reported act of violence against a potential contractor, a few legal challenges and a judicial ruling into this thing—and until less than one month ago, all four of the monuments remained on prominent public display across our city. We weren’t moving forward. To be sure, it was like we were stuck in 1874.
We weren’t moving forward. To be sure, it was like we were stuck in 1874.
Enough is enough.
Speaking of not being able to please everybody . . .
Of course, there are those who are intent on keeping us stuck there. They are protesting—coming from far and near—in an effort to keep the remaining monument standing. They are buying double-truck advertisement spreads in local dailies. And they are still wasting time and money attempting to wage legal battles. Much like the Confederacy, we say it is a lost cause. We simply cannot find one reason why the city is not well within its rights to remove these monuments. And we really do not understand why the state legislature has injected itself into this matter. We are hoping state senators display better sense than their counterparts in the House.
It is time to move on.
As we head to press with this very issue, it is our understanding that the removal of the monument of Robert E. Lee is imminent. Thank goodness! With that, perhaps our city, its leaders, and residents can focus attention on other more important matters. For our part, we are excited about the city of New Orleans’ recently announced Equity New Orleans strategy, designed to strive for fairness and inclusion in city of New Orleans policies, programs and service delivery to ensure that all of the city’s residents prosper. That, to us, is a monumental task—one around which we must all rally.
Thanks for moving us in that direction, Mayor Landrieu.