The New Orleans City Council on Thursday cast a historic vote to remove four public monuments to Confederate leaders from city grounds, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu indicated that more statues could be cleared out in the future.
"We should remember history and not revere a false version of it," Landrieu said in announcing the decision, which followed a six-month debate in the council. "There is no question in my mind that the people of New Orleans are up to the task of appropriately commemorating who we are as a people and where we come from."
The council voted 6-1 to remove the four monuments honoring Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the Battle of Liberty Place, a rebellion led by ex-confederates seeking to overthrow the Reconstruction-era government in 1874.
Council members said the statues were offensive and honored leaders who fought to uphold slavery and white supremacy in the South.
"As a society, we can no longer live beneath their shadows," said Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey.
Landrieu announced his support of the monument removal in June, after a white supremacist shot and killed nine black parishioners at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The lone dissenting vote on Thursday came from Councilwoman Stacy Head, who said she was concerned about the potential divisive effects of continued public fighting over the monuments.
Referring to that debate and the movement to rid the city of its many other Confederate markers, Landrieu said, "I don't know where it's going to end. But I know where it's going to begin."
"This is the right thing to do and now is the time to do it," he said in a statement. "Moving the location of these monuments—from prominent public places in our city where they are revered to a place where they can be remembered—changes only their geography, not our history."
The removal process is not without its controversies, however. According to the New Orleans Advocate:
The cost of removing all four monuments is now estimated at $170,000, about $40,000 more than when the proposal was first put into motion. The city has said an anonymous donor has offered to pay for the removal.
Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell objected to that secrecy during the meeting.
"Come from behind the curtain. Who is funding this?" Cantrell asked. "That is something we deserve to know. This is a public body, this is government; nothing that we do is anonymous."
Some council members also criticized Landrieu's call in July for the monuments' removal serving as the impetus for the decision, rather than the earlier efforts put forth by black citizens and lawmakers.
"[T]he most insulting thing I've heard come from that podium are the people who came up here and said, the council is for taking the monuments down because Mitch Landrieu is for taking them down ... I am the descendant of slaves," said Councilman James Gray. "Before I knew there was a person called Mitch Landrieu, the people who I cared about were talking about the need to take those statues down."