Recent protests renew scrutiny of Confederate monuments

Some of the 1,503 Confederate monuments and memorials remaining in the U.S. can become flash points for disputes

Recent protests renew scrutiny of Confederate monuments
As protests take place from coast to coast, the south is seeing a renewed effort to remove Confederate memorials, which have served as flash points of racial division in this country. Such is the case with the Confederate monument at the Caddo Parish Courthouse in downtown Shreveport. (Source: Scott Pace/KSLA)

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — More Confederate monuments are coming down in the South.

The most recent examples include places in Alabama and Virginia.

And it’s happening with all the recent protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

Some of the remaining 1,503 Confederate monuments and memorials throughout the country can become flash points for racial disputes, large and small.

That includes the Confederate monument at the Caddo Parish Courthouse in downtown Shreveport.

It is one of 91 public spaces with Confederate monuments in Louisiana, while Texas is home to 178 and Arkansas 57.

Despite years of efforts and seemingly countless court proceedings, the 115-year-old structure on the north side of the Caddo Courthouse grounds still stands, for now, in a legal limbo of sorts.

And as we saw just three days ago, a Black Lives Matter march and protest culminated in a stop right at the feet of the controversial statue at the courthouse.

That’s where hundreds of people came together Sunday to protest Floyd’s death as well as claims of systemic racism right here at home.

As the crowd arrived Sunday afternoon, chants of “No justice!” “No peace!” “No justice!” “No peace!” echoed throughout downtown Shreveport.

Their stop at the Confederate monument was symbolic of the strong feelings generated by that Civil War memorial.

Some might call it a real-life Rorschach Test. But instead of ink blots, its presence is either a symbol of heritage or a symbol of hate, depending on who you ask.

Demonstrators cheered when police removed a monument supporter who had been trying to stand guard in front of the 30-foot tall marble and granite structure.

And three days after the protest, people we met on the streets of Shreveport explained the disparate feelings the monument engenders.

“I understand how, coming up in the South, it could be a monument," Thomas Cargill said Wednesday. "But at the same time, I think for the other group of people you have to understand the pain and the destruction and everything that it brings to memory.”

Even as Confederate monuments keep coming down throughout the South, the fate of the one on the Caddo Courthouse grounds also appeared to be sealed late in 2019.

The Caddo Commission even allotted $500,000 for its removal this year as the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, thus closing the last best legal hopes of Confederate monument supporters.

Only an injunction filed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy likely stopped the monument’s removal.

And Paul Gramling, commander-in-chief of Sons of Confederate Veterans, told KSLA News 12 that he’s convinced people would not oppose the monuments if they knew more about the Confederate Army’s history.

“You had all creeds and nationalities and races that fought for the South. And they all was fighting for basically the same reason. That was because they were invaded. This was their home.”

The courts were supposed to tackle the question of the UDC's injunction that's keeping the monument here for the time being.

But delays from the COVID-19 pandemic keep pushing back the court date.

While Cargill and many others want to understand both sides of the issue, there’s no hedging from him when you break the issue down to a question of whether the monument should stay or go.

“I definitely think it should be moved and taken down and not put up anywhere ... maybe a museum. You know, maybe monuments like that should be put up in museums where people want to see them.”

As for Gramling, he said there’s another consideration that should be taken into account before the Caddo Commission tries to move the monument.

“Through all our winters and summers, that does something to the marble, the granite. It does something to it over time. And the way that monument’s put together, if they try to move it, it’s gonna fall apart. And then we’ve got a problem.”

The next event scheduled at the Caddo monument is set for noon to 2 p.m. Saturday. It’s a rally that the UDC has been granted a permit to hold at the courthouse.

There’s also talk of another protest the same day and similar to Sunday’s demonstration.

It’s unclear at this time whether the two events will overlap.

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