Louisiana House Passes Bill to Protect Confederate Monuments; Black Caucus Storms Out In Protest

Members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus claim that House Bill 71 is rooted in white supremacy. (Photo by Mark Ballard/The Advocate)

Louisiana’s 24-member Legislative Black Caucus stormed out in protest Monday, May 15, after the House passed a bill aimed at hindering the removal of Confederate monuments.

The bill, which mandates an election before any war memorial is removed or altered in any way, passed the state House by a 65-31 vote, sparking two hours of emotional debate and speeches by Black caucus leaders who denounced the legislation’s racist underpinnings.

“It was disgusting, we just couldn’t stay,” Black caucus member Rep. Terry Landry (D-Lafayette) told The Advocate while standing in the hall waiting for an aide to retrieve his glasses and cellphone from his desk in the chamber. “You have to stand for something.”

The bill’s approval comes just weeks after New Orleans made efforts to remove the first of four Confederate monuments across the city. The predominately Black city has taken three of them down already, drawing harsh rebukes from Confederate apologists, as well as white supremacists. In fact, a group of nearly 500 demonstrators clashed with Confederate flag-wielding white nationalists earlier this month as they protested the removal of war statues situated at Lee Circle.

The proposed “House Bill 71” would essentially ban the removal, renaming or alteration of any military monument of any war, including what the bill dubbed as the “War Between the States,” that’s placed on public property — unless local voters approve of it. The measure’s provisions would go far beyond war monuments, however, as the re-dedication of any park, street or school bearing the name of any war veteran would require an election as well.

Though the proposed legislation mentions all wars, Monday’s debates were centered around the Civil War and Confederate monuments.

“This bill is very much about white supremacy and divisiveness,” Rep. Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge) argued.

Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) agreed, charging that the monuments lawmakers are trying to protect are “deeply offensive to African-Americans and to Christians.”

“Do they have any monuments to [Adolf] Hitler in Germany?” Jackson asked. “Why are we classifying monuments to those who promoted slavery as military monuments?”

Rep. Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport), who sponsored the contested legislation, didn’t seem to understand where the Black caucus members were coming from, arguing that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery at all. Carmody claims the proposed bill is simply about “allowing the public to decide” and also protecting Southern history and heritage.

“We were and are wounded because the bill attempts to rewrite history by honoring those who not only rebelled against the United States, but who fought to maintain man’s greatest inhumanity to man,” state Rep. Joseph Bouie (D) said at a press conference Tuesday, May 16, surrounded by several members of the Black caucus. “The system of slavery, where our ancestors were considered property, less than human, women raped and abused, men slaughtered at will, and systems implemented to facilitate cultural genocide.”

The Confederate monument drama in New Orleans has since spread to other areas of the state where residents want to see such statues taken down. For one, an advisory committee in Shreveport, another predominately black city, has held multiple hearings on the future of a Confederate memorial standing outside the Caddo Parish courthouse, the Advocate reported. So far, an online petition demanding the removal of the statue has garnered 510 signatures.

“It is our assertion that this statue subverts and undermines our core principles of liberty and justice for all,” petition organizers wrote.”It’s unconscionable that anyone going to the courthouse, a place promising equal justice for all, should be forced to do so under a shadow of injustice and suppression.”

House Bill 71 will now head to the Senate for consideration.

Back to top