New Orleans Confederate monuments will soon be taking them down after a federal court ruling. The lawsuit from the Monumental Task Committee, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana and Beauregard Camp No. 130 challenged whether the city had the legal standing to remove the monuments, among other points, according to ABC News.
The City Council voted 6-1 last month, at the request of mayor Mitch Landrieu, to declare as public nuisances monuments to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard and the Battle of Liberty Place, allowing the city to remove them from public spaces. The decision will forever change the landscape of New Orleans.
“We are pleased with the court’s sound ruling on this issue,” C. Hayne Rainey, the mayor’s press secretary, said in a statement. “Once removed, the monuments will be stored in a city-owned warehouse until further plans can be developed for a private park or museum site where the monuments can be put in a fuller context.”
The Louisiana Landmarks Society refused to comment on U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s ruling, and representatives for the other plaintiffs could not be reached immediately for comment. Barbier’s ruling offers additional insight into the city’s plan to remove the sculptures — or least who might remove them.
The mayor’s office has offered limited information on contractors after selecting the Foundation for Louisiana as its fiscal agent for the job. As a private entity, the foundation doesn’t have to disclose who it hires to perform the actual work. The nonprofit is not affiliated with the plaintiff that bears a similar name.
Supporters of the New Orleans Confederate monuments argued the city would cause irreparable harm by removing the statues. In response, the Landrieu administration offered a report from Warren Schambeau Jr., who contractor H&O Investments retained as an expert and construction management, according to Barbier’s ruling.
Schambeau said “his team will have qualified and highly-skilled crane operators and riggers” for the project “as well as high-quality equipment.” He said All Crane Rental of Louisiana has been retained to handle the removal of the monuments.
H&O Investments backed out of the job after company owner David Mahler said he and his wife received death threats at their office and home. Days later, Mahler’s $200,000 Lamborghini was destroyed in a suspicious fire in the parking lot of his Baton Rouge business.
There was no answer to calls to All Crane Rental’s office in Geismar.
The plaintiffs were seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the city from moving to take down the monuments while their case was being considered court. Landrieu promised not to do so until the outcome of lawsuit was determined, but Barbier ordered both parties to present arguments Jan. 14 on the restraining order and the preliminary and permanent injunctions the plaintiffs wanted to block the city’s plan entirely.
In his ruling, Barbier rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that because the four monuments are adjacent to streetcar lines, the city doesn’t have authority to remove them because those transportation projects were paid for with federal money.
The groups also argued the city would violate the National Historic Preservation Act through because it failed to determine if removing the statues would have adverse impact on the adjacent historic properties. Such research is needed in order for the city to receive federal money for infrastructure projects, but Barbier said the plaintiffs failed demonstrate “any nexus between a federally-funded project or undertaking and the removal of the monuments at issue.”
Despite claims otherwise from plaintiffs, Barbier ruled the city provided “substantive due process” through a series of public hearings, leading up to and including the Dec. 17 vote to declare the monuments nuisances.
The lawsuit also insisted the city was violating its own rules by accepting $175,000 from an anonymous donor to pay for the monument removal, but the judge declared those concerns moot because the city explained the money technically was coming from the Foundation for Louisiana.
Co-defendants in the New Orleans Confederate monuments lawsuit with the city were the U.S. Department of Transportation, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans and Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a group that mobilized to support the mayor’s monument removal initiative.