NEW ORLEANS -- The Vieux Carre Commission voted unanimously to recommend to the city council that the controversial Liberty Place monument be declared a nuisance and removed from its current position behind a downtown parking lot near the river.
The vote came after hearing from just more than a dozen speakers, seemingly close to evenly divided on the measure. The meeting was not nearly as well-attended as a previous meeting on the future of four Confederate-era monuments that Mayor Mitch Landrieu has recommended moving from places of honor.
While the city considers other Confederate monuments such as statutes of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard, the debate to remove the Liberty Place monument is not new, and has a long, contentious history. Many have found the monument particularly racist for what it represents, and there have been several moves to get rid of the statute before it finally was tucked away by a parking garage on the edge of the French Quarter.
The commission, in a 5-0 vote Wednesday, recommended the removal of the 35-foot-tall obelisk, which was erected to commemorate a violent insurrection led by ex-Confederates in 1874.
The 5,000 White League members, predominately ex-Confederate Democrats who opposed Republican-led Reconstruction, including civil rights for blacks following the Civil War, led an armed uprising against the 3,500 member bi-racial Metropolitan Police force. The attempted coup left dozens dead, and briefly disposed the sitting governor, but helped to ultimately end Reconstruction. The White League uprising represents one of the largest killings of municipal police in American history.
A monument was erected in 1891, and listed the names of those White Leaguers killed in the uprising.
In 1934, a new plaque was put on the monument to further solidify the intentions behind the battle, reading, "McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored). United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state."
In 1970, Mayor Moon Landrieu had a plaque erected by the statue which read, ""Although the 'Battle of Liberty Place' and this monument are important parts of New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans."
The 1934 inscription was covered up in 1981 by Mayor Dutch Morial who was unsuccessful in having it removed from the foot of Canal Street. He also had it surrounded by tall shrubs.
In 1989, it was taken off Canal Street due to construction in the area and put into storage. The monument stayed there until a lawsuit led in part by white supremacist David Duke forced the city to place it at its current location as a compromise.