New Orleans votes to remove Confederate, Civil War monuments - KMOV.com

New Orleans votes to remove Confederate, Civil War monuments

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Arlene Barnum, with a group calling themselves Confederate Veterans Lives Matter, holds a Confederate flag in front of City Hall in New Orleans Dec. 10, 2015.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Arlene Barnum, with a group calling themselves Confederate Veterans Lives Matter, holds a Confederate flag in front of City Hall in New Orleans Dec. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
In this In this Sept. 2, 2015 file photo, the Robert E. Lee Monument is seen in Lee Circle in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) In this In this Sept. 2, 2015 file photo, the Robert E. Lee Monument is seen in Lee Circle in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

By Ben Brumfield and Ralph Ellis CNN

(CNN) -- The New Orleans City Council voted Thursday to remove four monuments to the Confederacy.

A large crowd in council chambers broke into cheers after a 6-1 vote to take down statues of Gens. Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. An obelisk dedicated to the Battle of Liberty Place will also go.

The vote is one of the strongest gestures yet by an American city to remove symbols of Confederate history. It follows the trend in many Southern states to take down the Confederate battle flag.

Historic societies in the 300-year-old city supported the removal of the monuments, and the proposal was introduced by a majority of City Council members.

But the statues didn't go quietly. Some residents screamed to keep them.

Charleston slayings were a tipping point

The tipping point for Mayor Mitch Landrieu was Charleston, South Carolina.

He'd been thinking about having the symbols of the Confederacy removed for about a year, when a white gunman in South Carolina massacred black worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal on June 17. Dylann Roof, the shooter, venerated the Confederate battle flag.

A week later, Landrieu announced the planned ordinance.

According to a City Hall press release, Landrieu said before the meeting: "As we approach the Tricentennial, New Orleanians have the power and the right to correct historical wrongs and move the City forward. The ties that bind us together as a city are stronger than what keeps us apart."

Council President Jason Williams said, "After a long and thoughtful debate on this issue, I am pleased that we have reached a conclusion. Thank you to all citizens who have participated and made your voices heard during this process. We all may have differing perspectives, but share a common love and concern for the City of New Orleans."

Monuments called 'nuisances'

The ordinance approved by the council declares the Confederate monuments "nuisances" and calls for them to be removed. Landrieu requested the vote to banish specters of racism.

The statues are unconstitutional, said the proposed ordinance marked Calendar No. 31,082.

"They honor, praise, or foster ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens as provided by the constitution and laws of the United States, the state, or the laws of the city and suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over another."

Monument supporters say it's not about race

In July, the city called for 60 days of public meetings to review the proposed ordinance.

"This discussion is about whether these monuments, built to reinforce the false valor of a war fought over slavery, ever really belonged in a city as great as New Orleans, whose lifeblood flows from our diversity and inclusiveness," Landrieu told the City Council.

But opponents of the plan steered away from any racial argument.

Keeping the figures of the Confederacy was not about preserving racial injustice, they said, but about honoring figures who fought to protect the city.

New Orleans, which was the largest city in the Confederacy, fell to Union forces in 1862 and was under federal occupation beyond the Civil War's end in 1865.

No place for Lee

One prominent artist who wanted the figures gone also skirted the issue of race. Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, who is African-American, said that Lee in particular had no historic place in the city.

"This symbolic place in our city should represent a great New Orleanian, or it should be an open space that represents our latest prevail and how people helped us, not a person who had nothing to do with our city and who indeed fought against the United States of America and lost," Marsalis told CNN affiliate WDSU.

Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was a Louisiana native, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis lived in New Orleans after the war and died there.

Statue has stood since 1884

Lee's statue would fall the hardest of the three.

It stands 60 feet high atop a neoclassical column at what was christened Lee Circle in his honor. It was originally called Tivoli Circle. Most Mardi Gras parades snake right past it.

Lee faces north, looking in the direction of his former enemy, and has stood there since 1884, the history department at the University of New Orleans says. Both Davis and Beauregard attended the monument's dedication.

Their statues were erected in the 1910s.

A fourth monument, probably the most contentious, will also fall.

The monument to the Battle of Liberty Place commemorates an uprising in 1874 of the White League against federal forces and police in an attempt to overthrow racially integrated governance put in place during Reconstruction.

Former mayors, including Landrieu's father, Moon Landrieu, have attempted to have this monument removed or altered.

Mitch Landrieu's new ordinance does not specify what will happen to the monuments. They could land in a museum or in storage or be "otherwise disposed of in accordance with provisions of the law."

CNN's Andreas Preuss contributed to this report.

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