Lawyers Argue About Removing Confederate Statues

NEW ORLEANS (AP) —A court has heard arguments on whether New Orleans should be able to remove four Confederate monuments.

         Attorneys for New Orleans on Wednesday told a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that the city has the right to take them down. Monument supporters want them to remain while the court process continues. The judges reached no decision and did not indicate how quickly that would happen.

         The City Council voted in December 2015 to remove the monuments to Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a statue honoring whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans.

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         Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged the monuments be removed after police said a white supremacist who posed with the Confederate battle flag for photos killed nine parishioners inside an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.

         But the decision to remove the monuments has been sharply controversial and led to an immediate court fight.

         Hayne Rainey, a spokesman for the mayor said ahead of Wednesday's hearing that they "remain committed to taking down the four monuments."

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         Those trying to keep the monuments up appealed to both state and federal courts. In federal court, they argued the city should not be allowed to remove the monuments while the federal case was still being heard. A federal judge disagreed, allowing the city to go ahead with the removal.

         But an appeals court later blocked the city from removing the monuments until they could hear arguments in Wednesday's hearing.

         The plaintiffs — four historical organizations — have advanced many arguments; among them, that their constitutional rights had been violated by the process for removal, the monuments were protected by historic preservation laws, by maintaining the monuments over the years they've gained recognizable property interest in them and that removing the monuments could irreparably harm them. They're asking the appeals court to grant them an injunction that would remain in effect throughout the litigation — meaning the city can't remove the monuments for months or years.

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         The city argues that local governing authority owns and controls the removal of public monuments. They say the four organizations have already had the opportunity to speak repeatedly at the public meetings.

         – by AP Reporter Rebecca Santana



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