May 162017

A monument supporter rests as crews set up equipment to remove the Jefferson Davis Confederate memorial last week (Claire Byun).

In light of the recent controversy surrounding the city’s Confederate monuments, members of the Green Party of New Orleans released a clear, concise stance on the “symbols of white supremacy.”

The party released a statement supporting the removal of New Orleans’ Confederate monuments last week just before the statue of Jerfferson Davis was removed overnight. While party members are working to revamp their statement in light of the state legislatures’s efforts to halt the removal, party officials wanted a clear, cohesive stance on the issue that’s caused protests, counter-protests and marches.

“You’re on the front lines when you fight these fights, and I would not want to see the Green party excluded from these struggles,” John Clark, Green member, said.

The statement praises Take Em Down NOLA, which works to “take down all symbols of white supremacy,” while acknowledging the historic value of the statues. Party members encourage the city to remove the monuments with care and place them somewhere with proper educational context for future students of history.

The city has committed to removing four Confederate monuments around the city. Two have already been removed – the Liberty White League obelisk and the bronze of Jefferson Davis –  though the dates and times for removing P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee are secret for “safety reasons,” city officials said.

There are several more Confederate-era monuments scattered throughout the city, including a bust of Brigadier General Albert Pike in Mid-City, as well as schools and institutions named after those involved in the Confederacy. Take Em Down NOLA is working to remove or rename all of those marked around the city, and the Greens are supporting those on the front lines.

“It was entirely appropriate for us to take a position,” said Lynne Serpe, party member. “It’s important for us to be supporting of those groups.”

Clark said he’s seen the fall of many historically-important buildings across the city, including the Carrollton Courthouse. Clark went to high school in the courthouse, which was recently purchased for $4.7 million by a Houston-based developer of senior living communities.

Those historical buildings are important to the culture and community of New Orleans, Clark said, though he doesn’t see as many people stand up for them in the same way.

“There’s been so much historical loss in this city,” he said. “And there’s certain people who only stand up for one thing: racist monuments.”

Proponents of the monuments cite their value to the history of the city and the country. About 50 monument supporters gathered around Jefferson Davis last week to protest its removal. There were more than 100 counter protesters gathered early Wednesday as the bronze statue was lifted from its base.

Monument supporters camped out in front of Davis for more than two weeks o show their support, and many said the monument wasn’t a racist symbol – merely a memorial of a leader. The Green party, however, disagrees.

“The Confederacy, after all, lost the war, and slavery was outlawed; the monuments were designed to say, ‘Yet still, we rule.’ They were designed to maintain and reproduce a harsh and rigid racial caste system,” the statement said.

Ryan Hargis, party member, said the party chose to create a statement because they are free from many of the larger parties’s ties; Greens don’t have to work to earn re-election in offices for now, so they can take clear positions on controversial issues. The biggest motivator, Hargis said, was one question: “Are we working toward building a moral society, or are we not?”

“We make a statement because we can,” he said. “We’re trying to be a party that’s different.”

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