Senate panel rejects bill aimed at protecting Confederate monuments

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Senate panel rejected two bills Wednesday that would have made it harder to remove Confederate monuments in Louisiana.

The votes fell along party and racial lines, with four African American Democrats voting to kill the measures, while two white Republicans voted to advance them.

"I refuse to continue to fight the Civil War," said Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who chaired the committee. "There is one flag - for the USA, not the CSA."

For more than four hours, lawmakers debated and heard testimony on the two bills. Both would have created new protections for military monuments, including Confederate memorials.

The bills would take the power to remove the monuments out of the hands of local government. SB 198 would have given the state legislature the choice. HB 71 by Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, would send it to the ballot box for a vote.

"The public feels like they have been not granted the ability to weigh in and put their vote on the matter," said Carmody.

Much of the debate and discussion was not centered on the bills, however. Instead, lawmakers and the public spent a lot of time re-litigating the recent removal of the four Confederate statues in New Orleans.

"I had people from other countries saying what a disgrace that the mayor took them down, period," said one woman from Florida, who was on the verge of tears.

"I think its a hate crime. I think its a monumental mistake to take down anybody's flag or monument," said another man. "What's next? Are they going to come after our music? Our arts?"

Bill supporters argued that protecting the statues was key to preserving history.

The African American lawmakers fired back, saying that keeping up those Confederate memorials turns a blind eye to the darker parts of history, including slavery.

"I have history where people who were raped, were killed," said Peterson.

"There is history that should not be celebrated. The Holocaust should not be celebrated. The Confederacy and slavery should not be celebrated," said Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans.

When the La. House passed HB 71 two weeks ago, all of the African American members walked off the floor in protest. They later released a statement saying the vote "exposed a deep-rooted belief in White supremacy and racial divisiveness."

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