White League commemoration panel of the "Liberty Place" Monument
Way to suck the fun out of everything, Mitch.
Early Monday morning crews removed New Orleans' Liberty Place monument commemorating the failed rebellion of a white supremacist militia, the first of four statues slated to be taken from their public perches.Of course we're glad to see this happening, finally. The process has taken almost two years. But also, I agree with Malcolm Suber here.
The unannounced removal marks the beginning of the end of a debate that has roiled the city in the nearly two years since Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for the removal of the monument to the Battle of Liberty Place and more prominent statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Malcolm Suber, one of the organizers of Take ‘Em Down NOLA, showed up mid-way through the removal. While he said he was glad the monument, one of about a hundred statues and street and place names the group has called to be removed as symbols of white supremacy, he has previously called for the statues to come down in daylight, with notice and a public celebration.Everyone, including and especially those of us who have advocated for taking the monuments down, should consider this an insult. Those who argue that all that matters is that they're coming down now are missing the point. These monuments are symbols. Their installation was a political act affirming white supremacy. Their removal should be an equally potent political act refuting it. We've just gone through an exhaustive democratic and legal process to make this happen. Mitch's action delegitimizes that. By "sneaking around" as Adrastos puts it here, the mayor "gives the appearance of wrongdoing when they’re doing the right thing."
“The thing I’m amazed at is these people are wearing helmets, flack jackets and covering their faces,” Suber said of the workers removing the monument. “Why should that be necessary in a democratic society?”
Of course there have been threats and it's fine to be concerned about safety. But it's also important not to give power to phantoms and NOLA.com commenters by allowing such people to cower you like this. The terrorists are winning. Mitch Landrieu has allowed them to deny the monument removal the dignified civic air it deserves. He has allowed our valid political and legal process to end in what will be perceived as an underhanded authoritarian act.
As the T-P's Tim Morris also points out, it's an action that also raises questions about basic government transparency.
There is plenty of evidence that concern for public safety is warranted. But how do we know if the high level of security and secrecy is appropriate? How much information should be kept from the public? Government secrecy is at odds with basic democratic principles. As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, "an informed public is the most potent of all restraints upon misgovernment."
Will the remaining monuments be taken down under cover of darkness? With snipers posted nearby? What are the snipers' orders? Is this level of military-like protection needed?
There are so many things we don't know.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said the removal will be privately financed, but will not disclose who is signing the check. Is one person covering the complete $600,000? Who decides what happens to the monuments? What will replace them?
We deserved better than this. We deserved a proper toppling party. On the other hand, let's at least give props to the city for doing this on something called "Confederate Memorial Day."
Or it is that in some states, anyway. Louisiana actually observes this on June 3. That might be a good day to take down the final monument and give us our celebration then.