La. parish leaders vote to oust Confederate monument

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Local officials have voted to remove a Confederate monument from the courthouse grounds in a northwest Louisiana parish.

The Caddo Parish Commission voted 7-5 for the measure on Thursday after hearing nearly two hours of opinions about the monument erected 111 years ago in a parish once called “Bloody Caddo” because so many African-Americans were killed during Reconstruction.

R.J. Johnson, chair of a citizens’ advisory committee appointed by the commission, said moving the statue away from the parish courthouse in Shreveport “is about reconciling the community. This vote is an opportunity for us to shed our parish’s reputation as ‘Bloody Caddo,'” The Times reported .

One of those against, Rex Dukes, told the commission, “Over 300 of my people, of my ancestors fought in the Confederate War; probably more than anybody else in this room. The monument needs to stay where it is,” KSLA-TV reported .

He contended that moving the statue,” is not going to bring in unity whatsoever. This will further divide this country to the point to where you could end up in another civil war.”

However, the station reported, more than 80 percent of those attending rose to their feet when Commission President Steven Jackson asked those who support the monument’s removal to stand.

The monument features a statue of a soldier on a pedestal, surrounded by busts of four Confederate generals on lower pedestals.

Commissioner Jim Middleton, who voted against removal, said, “There were Daughters of the Confederacy that were 8, 9 and 10 years old when their parents left to go to the war, and when they came back may have been maimed or wounded. My personal perspective, I don’t think they built the monument as a white supremacist act. I viewed it as being out love for their fathers that went to war.”

“This monument undermines a basic principle, a fundamental law, the 14th Amendment right to due process and justice under the law,” Jackson said. “When individuals go to the courthouse, you have a symbol of injustice in front of a place of justice.”

Many in the audience stood to applaud the vote, The Times reported.

A motion to have voters decide the matter failed 5-7.

American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman said the decision shows Shreveport is a place where freedom and equality are valued.

The monument won’t be removed soon. Legal challenges are likely. And the commission has not decided where the monument should be moved, or how to take it down in a way that will let it be re-erected somewhere else.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.