- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans City Council granted the mayor’s request Thursday to consider moving three prominently displayed statues of Confederate leaders and an obelisk known locally as the white supremacy monument.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the council at a public hearing that history must be remembered to avoid repetition but the statues should be put “in their proper place and context.”

“Simply stated: Remembrance, yes; reverence, no,” Landrieu said.

All six council members present - one was absent - voted to begin the 60-day process, which includes public hearings, to have the monuments removed as public nuisances.

“For the record, all seven council members co-authored this - the entire City Council,” President Jason Rogers Williams said.

Landrieu suggested the memorials could be replaced with symbols befitting the city’s nature.

“These monuments were built to reinforce the false valor of a war fought over slavery, but New Orleans has always been a city of diversity and inclusion,” he said.

Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue faces north from a downtown traffic circle, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard’s monument stands at the entrance to City Park, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis is memorialized on the wide median of Jefferson Davis Parkway at Canal Street.

Landrieu suggested renaming the street after Norman Francis, who retired in June after 47 years as the first black president of historically black Xavier University.

“How can we expect to inspire a nation when our most prominent public spaces are dedicated to the reverence of the fight for bondage and supremacy of our fellow Americans?” Landrieu asked.

The fourth monument, the obelisk erected in 1891, originally commemorated White League members who fought city police, killing 11 black officers, in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the city’s Reconstruction government in 1874. It once stood on Canal Street, a major thoroughfare, but was moved to a more out-of-the-way spot in 1993, its white supremacy inscriptions replaced by a plaque honoring the dead on both sides of the Battle of Liberty Place.

The few white members of the public who spoke to the council said Lee’s history as a leader who freed his own slaves in 1862 deserves remembrance, the Civil War was not about slavery and New Orleans residents also discriminated against Italians and Irish immigrants.

“We need to stop chipping away at our history,” said Kerrie Slaton, who described the anti-Irish and -Italian discrimination. “I resent being stripped of my heritage.”

“I teach my children history I agree with and history I disagree with,” Joey C. Cargol Sr. said.

African-Americans said the move was overdue, and several said the proposal didn’t go far enough.

“I think this is a half-hearted way to address these racist symbols,” said Chui Clark, chairman of the group Neighborhood Unity. He said everything in City Park, including the Storyland playground, is “a tribute to white supremacy. There is nothing … about African-American people who have done wonders.”

Charles Steele Jr. of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said leaving the monuments in place is saying “it’s OK to try to overthrow your government and not be considered a terrorist.”

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