Appeals court rules that New Orleans’ Confederate statues can come down

By Dawn Geske | Mar 16, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court has ruled that Confederate statues in New Orleans will come down, allowing city officials to remove these historic symbols as prominent fixtures in the city.

According to a report by National Public Radio, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of a plan created by city officials to remove the statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis — two Confederate leaders — from the city’s landscape, regardless of challenges to the case.

“Times change,” William P. Quigley, a professor at Loyola University and director of the Loyola Law Clinic, told the Louisiana Record. “These statues have been some of the most prominent in the city. New Orleans' population is no longer supportive of the Confederacy and its elected officials, after several public hearings, democratically decided it was time they came down.”

The appeals court ruled in line with the district court on the matter, stating that the plaintiffs in the case — which are challenging the removal and include The Monumental Task Committee, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, and Beauregard Camp No. 130 — have failed to prove their arguments.

Regardless of the challenges, the city of New Orleans will move forward with its plan to remove the statues, which will remain in storage until it is decided by a public committee what to do with them.

Even with the removal of the statues, New Orleans will still have reminders of the Confederate leaders in the same places the statutes were erected. The Lee statue is currently in Lee Circle, and the Davis monument is on the Jefferson Davis Parkway.

“History continues,” Quigley said. “The role of the Confederacy will never fade from history. However, these symbols need not be in prominent positions in our community. The elected people put them up. Now elected people are taking them down.”

As New Orleans looks to move along from its Confederate past, it sees now as a time to make this change as the city has diversified and is looking toward the future.

“Since African-American people have reclaimed the vote and assumed their rightful share of political authority, there have been talks of taking these statues down,” Quigley said. “There are still many, many people whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy and they would like these symbols to stay up. Others, who are preservationists, want to preserve all old things. Everyone expressed their views, and this was the democratic decision.”

It is expected that the removal of the statues will not be without controversy, as preservationists and Confederacy supporters are likely to protest their removal from the city.

“Actually, taking them down will likely spark protests and counterprotests, but they will come down,” Quigley said.

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