City Leaders Seem All for Removing Vestiges of White Supremacy; Just Don’t take the Matter into Your Own Hands

Even as they decry the removal and dumping of a statue of slave owner and White supremacist John McDonogh by protesters, members of the New Orleans City Council are set to introduce a motion at their Thursday, June 18 meeting that will establish the City Council Street Renaming Commission, an advisory committee to run a public process for making recommendations to rename streets, parks, and places in New Orleans that honor White supremacists. 

Over the weekend, a small cadre of protesters were caught on camera removing the McDonogh bust from its pedestal in Duncan Plaza, loading it into a truck and dumping it in the Mississippi River. Two people were arrested and have since been released for the act of vandalism as NOPD searches for a third suspect. Meanwhile, according to media reports, the statue has been retrieved from the river, though it is not yet clear who recovered it or where it was taken. The Mayor has publicly called on whoever recovered the bust to return it to the City.

In a collective statement issued Sunday afternoon, Councilmembers Jay Banks, Cyndi Nguyen, Kristen Palmer and Jared Brossett said, “We are committed to doing everything within our power to address the concerns that are being brought forward every day relative to ensuring justice and equality for all people regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation or religion. However, the destruction of monuments or the destruction of any public or private property cannot and will not be tolerated. These types of acts divert attention from the attainment of the positive goals of the protests and enable the detractors to justify and validate their warped reasoning for their hate.”

In her own statement, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has also denounced the act of destruction perpetrated by the overzealous protesters.

“The city of New Orleans will not tolerate vandalism and destruction of private or public property,” the Mayor said.

The Council member’s statement went on to read, “There are numerous tributes to hate mongers, traitors to the United States, segregationists and slave owners throughout our city. We, as the City Council, have established a process for reviewing and renaming public spaces and streets throughout the City of New Orleans. This process will be open, transparent, comprehensive. It is designed to encourage everyone’s voice to be heard, and we welcome everyone’s input. We stand strongly in support of the goals of the peaceful protests to bring an end to racism, hatred, police brutality and hate. We strongly condemn the destruction that took place and hope that there are no such acts in the future.”

With protests taking place across the nation in response to the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin that has galvanized the fight against racism and racial inequity, the local Take ‘Em Down NOLA organization has renewed its call to remove all monuments along with street and public school names that pay homage to the confederacy and White Supremacy.

The group held a press conference last week (June 11) at City Hall, 1300 to demand that the New Orleans City Council finish the job of removing all monuments to White supremacy!

Take ‘Em Down NOLA, which was instrumental in the process that led to the removal of four statues in three years ago, including one of Robert E. Lee that loomed over the city’s skyline, says its is done with a “piecemeal approach of changing the monuments to white supremacy one street, one statue, one public school and one street at a time.”

“We are putting forth a demand for the City Council to adopt our ordinance, which mandates the removal of that all monuments to White supremacy from our public spaces,” TEDN organizer Malcolm Suber said in a statement.

The process Council members referenced involves the creation of a nine-member commission, with one member appointed by each member of the council and the remaining two members appointed by Mayor Cantrell and the City Planning Commission.

If approved, this commission will serve for one full year and will be responsible for making the following recommendations:

  • A list of streets, parks, and places that should be renamed, accompanied by a detailed explanation.
  • A proposed list of replacement names for each recommended street, park, or place, accompanied by a detailed explanation.
  • A process to facilitate both educating residents and receiving public feedback on the proposed changes.

The commission must also provide an initial report with its recommendations within three months of its first meeting and hold a public meeting on that report a month later. The final report incorporating public feedback will be submitted to the Council within six months and is expected to serve as the basis for district Council members to begin the renaming process.  

“An initiative of this kind is long overdue, but I am proud to be a part of it,” said District E Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen. “We can no longer live in the shadow of a dark history that glorifies the oppression of people of color. It is time to move beyond our divisive past and work together to build a new, inclusive legacy that highlights the rich cultural fabric of our city.”

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