Confederate monument protestors railing against honoring Civil War era figures gathered in front of City Hall and marched to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday (Nov. 26), just before kickoff of the annual Bayou Classic football game between Southern University and Gambling State University.
Representing the group Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a small number of protestors made speeches to fans streaming into the stadium and gathered signatures for a petition that calls on Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council to follow through on its pledge to remove the monuments.
The council voted 6-1 for the monuments’ removal last December, at the urging of Landrieu.
Around 30 protestors met on the front steps of City Hall at 3 p.m. Saturday and marched around the block to Poydras Street. They merged with Grambling and Southern fans heading for the Superdome, then congregated at the intersection of Poydras and LaSalle streets where they sought signatures and gave speeches.
Malcolm Suber, one of the group’s leaders, said they hoped to gather at least a thousand signatures outside the Superdome. He said Take ‘Em Down NOLA has gathered thousands of signatures over the past year, since its forming last July.
“We’re appealing to forces around the state who are here to spread the word about the struggle we’re facing to remove these symbols of white oppression,” Suber said of the monuments, speaking in front of City Hall prior to marching on the stadium.
Suber and others attending the protest characterized Saturday’s action as both an effort in opposition of the monuments as well as in favor of black excellence in the city. Angela Kinlaw, another Take ‘Em Down NOLA leader, called on fans visiting from out of town for the game to “make conscious decisions” to patronize black-owned New Orleans businesses during their stay.
“We are not here to protest the Bayou Classic,” she said. “We want you to have a good time, but we also want you to say ‘yes’ to black excellence, ‘no’ to white supremacy.”
Brian Young, a Southern alumni who graduated in 1988, was one of many passerbys who signed the petition. He said the monuments should have been taken down by now and that their proper place is inside a museum, not still in the streets of New Orleans.
“They’re symbols of oppression that aren’t with the times,” he said after signing the petition. “Everyone has a bad part of their history, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be in the public sphere.”
Saturday’s protest comes two months after Take ‘Em Down Nola led hundreds of protestors on a march to Jackson Square in the French Quarter, where the swelling crowd threatened to tear down the monument depicting Andrew Jackson and clashed with white nationalist David Duke. New Orleans police arrested 7 people during the rally, and the statue stayed up.
Though Take ‘Em Down NOLA has called for its removal, the Andrew Jackson statue is not among the four monuments City Council voted to remove last December. Those monuments include statues depicting Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard, and one — an obelisk — that commemorates a failed coup to unseat a biracial government in New Orleans following the Civil War.
Oral arguments on the merits of both for and against removing the monuments were heard Sept. 28 by three judges in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in March ordered the monuments to stay put until court proceedings have concluded. There is no deadline for the judges to render their ruling.