The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, after a specially called meeting on Thursday concerning the South's Defenders Monument, voted 10-4 to leave the statue where it is on the grounds of the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse.
The Police Jury had been in a period of active listening with the public since June 24 to receive input on the monument and its location.
Parish Administrator Bryan Beam said officials had received a tremendous amount of feedback from the public in the form of emails, letters, postcards, hand-delivered notes, and voicemails.
"We have received 945 written responses from the public during this period," Beam said. "Of the total responses, 878 were against relocating the monument and 67 were for relocating the monument."
Before voting on the issue, jurors listened for more than two hours to people of all ages and races speak passionately about either why they wanted the statue to remain or why they wanted it removed.
Because the monument sits on parish property, it was up to the Police Jury to make any decision.
The statue was dedicated on June 3, 1915, to recognize local Confederate veterans who fought in the Civil War, along with other soldiers from various towns in the South.
Residents and officials have discussed the monument's fate in past years, but it once again became a hot button topic following George Floyd's death May 25 during an arrest by Minneapolis police officers.
Derrick Thornton, speaking in favor of the statue's removal, said, "I'm here to tell you that we see you (Police Jurors.) We've read your emotionless responses online while we tried to get a voice from you to hear what you thought. We see you and some of you are choosing to stand on the wrong side of history. You welcome black dollars and black votes but ignore black voices."
Lois Malveaux, an advocate for removing the monument, said, "The Confederate soldiers were in favor of slavery. Being a black woman, the pain is real in my soul. God is destroying all evil symbols of hatred across the world. We must all stand against racism. I pray that you all make the right decision."
Charles Cole said he was "baffled" by what he has seen in regards to the monument. "People of color are very disturbed by the racial scars of the past; of slavery. Every time you pass by and see the statue, it brings back hurt, scars and tension. If you want to be cemented together, we need to come together."
Brian Abshire (not the police juror of the same name), who spoke in favor of removing the statue, would not leave the podium area after he spoke, saying he was in solidarity with his brothers and sisters who want the monument taken down.
Abshire kneeled, clasped his hands behind his head, said he would not yield, and continued to talk after being told several times by jurors that his time was up. The Police Jury then went into recess for a few minutes until sheriff's deputies told Abshire he was being asked to leave the room. He then did so.
Darious Clayton told jurors that if they decided not to remove the monument from the courthouse grounds that they were "devaluing" people of color and telling them that they did not matter.
"If you choose not to take the statue down, this is not over," Clayton said. "This is just the beginning. We are the revolution. Take the statue down or it's your fault what happens to the city."
Scott Fuselier spoke in favor of letting the statue remain, saying he had 14 Confederate ancestors. "In the word history lies the word ‘story,'" Fuselier said. "The statue's purpose is to teach us of its history; good, bad, or otherwise. Please do not fall victim to the cancel culture sweeping our nation. Keep the monument to teach the story of our history for future generations."
Archie Toomes, wearing a Confederate hat, said, "I'm here tonight but I feel like I'm wasting my time. I'm defending a monument that doesn't need defending. That monument does not project hate. The monument has never owned a slave. This is getting stupid and repetitive."
Butch Maloney said, "You can't change the frickin' past. We're changing names of roads and buildings and it's bullcorn. This is ridiculous and it's time for it to stop. Something's wrong with this country, especially with you (jurors) being threatened by people saying if you don't take it down, they will."
Gordon Simmons said he is a lifelong resident of the parish and a descendant of a handful of Confederate ancestors. "This is political insanity and the scrubbing of our history has to stop. I ask you to end this right here and now."
James Strahan, who is opposed to removing the statue, said, "The monument was not established to promote slavery. Slavery was a horrible thing but we can't change that it happened. The statue means a lot to a lot of people and I'm one of those people.":
After all of the speakers, police jurors were given an opportunity to speak.
Jurors Mike Smith, Eddie Lewis, and Anthony Bartie spoke in favor of the statue being removed or relocated.
Juror Chris Landry was somewhat neutral on the issue, saying he could see both sides, the issue would come up again in the future, and that it wasn't a comfortable decision to make for anyone on the Police Jury.
Juror Roger Marcantal said, "We were elected to do this. We were never told these would be easy decisions."
Voting against removing the monument and for it to remain where it is were the following police jurors: Ashton Richard, Brian Abshire, Ron Hayes, Guy Brame, Tony Stelly, Roger Marcantel, Judd Bares, Joe Andrepont, Randy Burleigh, and Tony Tramonte.
Those voting to remove the statue were the following police jurors: Mike Smith, Eddie Lewis Jr., Chris Landry, Anthony Bartie, and Tony Guillory (as president, Guillory's vote is only counted when used as a tie-breaker.) Therefore, his vote is not reflected in the 10-4 overall vote.