At the December 2015 New Orleans City Council Meeting, citizen Ron Drez advised the City Council and the Mayor that citizens would see the money they were spending to remove monuments to West Point Graduates, Mexican-American #War Veterans, and Louisiana National Guard Veterans as being wasteful of tax dollars.
Drez went on to say that citizens would then conclude if there was money to waste on staff time and legal fees to remove the monuments, then they would conclude additional funds were not needed to pay a retirement settlement due to firefighters, after the city lost a lawsuit on the Firefighter's pension.
He reminded the council that years earlier, residents had defeated a tax increase as a show of lack of confidence in the city council after part of the historic street car line was removed.
The council went on to approve Mayor Landrieu's request to begin a process to remove monuments in New Orleans that were erected in the Jim Crow era of approximately 1870-1960. Mayor Landrieu presented that the Mayors and City Council members of those years often approved and erected monuments to support racism.
Examples include Mayor Walmsley (1929-1936), who placed a plaque on a monument in 1933 dedicated to an 1874 battle between a mob and New Orleans Police Force which read: "[Democrats] McEnery and Penny 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 (coloured). 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."
The plaque was removed several years ago, but Walmsley still has a major street named after him.
The plaque was placed on a monument erected by Mayor Joseph Shakspeare in October 1891. He allowed eleven acquitted Italians to be murdered by a mob who organized and stormed a jail in March 1891. That mob had many of the same people from the 1874 mob that stormed Louisiana Government Offices. The 1891 massacre became an international incident. After the Italian government threaten to blockade the Mississippi River, the City of New Orleans paid the families $25,000.00.
Mayor "Chep" Morrison (1946-1961) frequently stated how often the NAACP sued him over segregation policies. Morrison has a monument erected to him outside city hall, which was built during his term.
There was no debate at the December City Council meeting on removing monuments and renaming streets to honor former Mayors who promoted Jim Crow Laws, racism, and segregation.
Ironically, one monument slated for removal is PGT Beauregard, who fought for school unification in 1873 with a phrase “Equal Rights – One Flag – One Country – One People."
Fourteen years later, in 1877, Colonel George Balch, wrote the first pledge of allegiance “We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!”
One Council Member, Stacey Head, voted against the measure to remove the monuments stating that the council was beginning a slippery slope that was divisive to the City of New Orleans. The Council voted 6-1 to remove the monuments in December.
In April, citizens voted 13,838 to 12,006 against the tax increase, or 53.5% against and 46.5% in favour.
A group of four long term non-profits formed to sue and stop the removal of the monuments. In March, they received an injunction to stop the city from removing the monuments. #Art