Tuesday evening, a cry against injustice and an argument for diverse interpretation were made at City Hall
The City Council voted on a resolution to send a request to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury to consider the removal of the South's Defenders Memorial Monument from the front lawn of the Old Calcasieu Parish Courthouse. Despite the fact that the City Council doesn't have authority to make a decision about the statue, several members of the community spoke for or against removing the monument. A total of 21 people spoke, while an equal number sat in the chambers and hallway listening to every discussion point. All Council members voted on an amended version of the resolution that was passed, and three members spoke out about their views.
Residents Derek Thorton, John O'Donnell and Taja Thurman spoke for the removal of the statue.
"I look now at myself and I wonder why we are having the same considerations and discussions when we're a progressive city. If we are a progressive city, then we take it down. If you want that statue, then you can put it in a museum, put it in a graveyard – I really don't care. But it has no place on property where I have to pay taxes for," said Thorton. Several others who spoke at the meeting discussed the importance of Lake Charles taking action and being progressive about this matter and what it symbolized.
"I think there are more eloquent people who can speak on the injustice this statue represents. It does not represent the true spirit of our city. If there's one thing I know in my bones about this city, it's that it doesn't matter if there's a hurricane, a flood, or global pandemic--when the ships are down our people stand up. Black, white, Asian, Native American, I've seen men and women of all races raise sandbags, volunteer at emergency shelters, serve food to the hungry, rebuild their neighbors' homes and give the clothes off their back to lift each other up. We may be a city divided racially, systemically and even geographically--most cities are. But what sets Lake Charles apart is when it hits the fan, this is a city of heroes. Heroes of all races who have stood together time and time again to resist adversity and to rebuild Lake Charles in times of need," spoke O'Donnell.
"What will you do today that will change our tomorrow?" asked Thurman, "The removal of the South's Defenders Confederate statue would be one of the most honorable things you can do for the progression of Lake Charles. We've basically begged you guys to make a decision."
Others such as Charles Richardson, Tyronne Steptroy and David Miles spoke against removing the statue from public grounds.
"Look at racism--it's a two-way street ... we all live on God's green Earth together. When someone looks at that statue and says ‘I'm offended because it represents slavery', you better look back at history and see where history came from. The statue ... it's perception," said Richardson.
Many shared the views that the statue upheld value for those Confederate soldiers that defended their homeland, many of whom were buried in mass graves. Others said that the statue was doing no harm, and shouldn't be removed now when it had stood for over 100 years.
"I feel like the statue to stay. All it is is history--it's not hurting anything," explained Steptroy, "What is it hurting? History is history ... what are you gonna put there? A statue of Martin Luther King? Malcom X? That'd be another riot. Focus on the sewage problem, the drainage problem ... take care of that problem. Don't worry about that statue, it a'int bothering anybody."
"We have bigger and worse problems in north Lake Charles then moving that hunk of rock," said Miles, "We all need to come together and find out what do. You can not talk about history, you can run from history but you can't hide from history. We all came over here in one ship, and now we're all in the same boat together. And you know who said that? Dr. Martin Luther King," Miles also spoke about the complications that already were being faced in north Lake Charles and how everyone will have different interpretations of the statue whichever decision is made.