Louisiana House passes bill to protect monuments, Black Caucus strikes backMay 16, 2017
Louisiana House of Representatives voted to pass House Bill 71 on Monday, May 15. The bill was introduced by State Representative Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport). Carmody says the bill is designed to protect the legacy of monuments of any military veteran in the state but many members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus find the bill to be a disguise in order to usurp local government’s authority and decision power exposing a deep rooted belief in White Supremecy and Racial Divide.
The House passed the bill 65-31 and the Senate will vote next.
The vote is no doubt being perceived as a revenge vote to echo the voices of many who are adamantly against a recent vote in New Orleans to take down Confederate Monuments in the city. The push to take the monuments down was led by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and several of the monuments have already been taken down but not without opposition, protests, and even death threats to the workers who were hired to take them down. Some of the threats have been so forceful that protection had to be worn while taking the monuments down.
“We understand why they want these momuments. They want to continue the visual proof of bigotry. The climate is right for it,” said State Representative Rodney Lyons (D-New Orleans). “One of the most startling things is that these people lack understanding the effect these visuals have on their neighbors and fellow citizens. They use any measure they can to enforce bigotry and now using the legislature to set their own laws,” he said.
Lyons, who represents District 87 in Harvery (NOLA Westbank), believes people who support these monuments and this bill should know what they are really saying to the world. “I don’t know how the senate will vote. I don’t believe there is an appetite in the Senate to endure what we endured yesterday. During the debate yesterday, a lot of our collegues who voted the way they voted will now have to wear the face of that. The face of White Supremecy and Bigotry. Whether they will admit it or not, they will wear the face.”
New Orleans’ removal of Confederate Monuments falls upon the heels of South Carolina taking down the Confederate Flag as well as many institutions in Mississippi following the same example. It has now presented discussions in North Louisiana in Shreveport where a Confederate Monument is in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse.
The monument in Shreveport was erected in 1902 after the Caddo Police Jury donated a small piece of land to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The Daughters of the Confederacy say the monument, consisting of four Confederate officers and a flag, honors Southern heritage and is not a symbol of racism. Many, including the NAACP in Shreveport, have vocally expressed their disagreement. Black lawmakers believe Carmody’s bill was in response to New Orleans but most importantly to protect the monument in Shreveport, where locals have already began talk of possibly tearing it down as well. However, Carmody says the monument in Shreveport is not on public land.
“People are holding on to yesterday and they are not willing to focus on our future. Until we accept that yesterday is over we can never truly heal from the past and move forward,” said State Representative Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport) Norton, who represents District 3, says many officials in her city have been fighting against the monument there for years and they have put their life’s work against it. “There may be people in Shreveport who support these monuments but there is a great number of people who want them down. Ken Epperson had been very vocal about it. The late Joyce Bowman as well,” she said about other leaders in Shreveport who have been vocally against confederate monuments in their city.
“It is a negative reflection of our state. As long as hate and prejudice is being shown and people are still holding grudges and clinging to the visuals of slavery we won’t completely unite. We have come too far to allow anyone to take us back to yesterday. We will stand for what’s right for all people,” said Norton.
State Representative Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), was present at a recent press conference in Baton Rouge at the Capitol in which members of the LA Legislative Black Caucus addressed this bill. “The public needs to understand that this bill is divisive. It is not about honoring men and women. It is about honoring those who fought to keep the institution of slavery alive and well,” said Jackson.
The State Representative from District 3 says the Senate will vote and the public should call their Senators and ask them to vote no to this bill. “Many people have made history but not everyone who made history deserves to honored,” she said. “Hitler killed millions in Germany but you don’t see a monument glorifying him. What he did and what these soldiers did do not reflect the moral foundation of our country,” explained Jackson.
She went on to say, “We all profess to be Christians and I haven’t met an atheist in this body yet. If you are truly a Christian, how can you vote to support people who have shed innocent blood all over this land? We don’t honor those whose only contribution to history is to hate people because of their race. They don’t deserve to be honored.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been receiving support from Democrats and Minorities about his position on the monuments but he has also been met with much anger from Conservatives. While many Blacks haven’t agreed with all of Landrieu’s positions in the past, this is one the overwhelming majority seem to support.
Jackson said, “Many of the Caucus members are appreciative and grateful that Mayor Landrieu would not allow New Orelans to continue promoting icons of hate. We haven’t agreed with every move he has made but on this issue, I think I can speak for the majority of Black Lawmakers. We are all very appreciative of his boldness.”
As the Senate prepares to vote this week, Caucus members are asking citizens to call the Louisiana Senate Office and encourage their Senators to vote against this bill. The number is 225-342-2040.
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