The mayor of New Orleans called on the city's residents to let go of a "false narrative of history" after four of the city's Confederate monuments came down last week.
In a speech at New Orleans' Gallier Hall, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that the city's monuments were "not just innocent remembrances of a benign history."
The Democratic mayor first pushed to remove four of the city's Confederate-era monuments after Dylann Roof murdered nine people at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015.
Statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, and an obelisk honoring the Battle of Liberty Place were all removed under increased security last week. While many white Southerners still see Confederate symbols as part of their local heritage, the flag's history as a system that sought to preserve slavery and racial oppression of African Americans has been strongly denounced in recent years.
"It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America," Landrieu said, adding that turning Confederate soldiers into heroes ignores the death, terror, and enslavement for which they stood. "They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots."
Landrieu said that while he does not "judge anyone" for identifying with the Confederacy or their Southern heritage, the statues' removal is a necessary step in moving forward and confronting the city's racist history:
Why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.
So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.
While Landrieu' approval ratings among the city's white residents dropped by nearly 30% after announcing the push to remove the statues, he insisted that taking down monuments was the right thing to do.
"Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division, and yes, with violence," said Landrieu.
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