Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said over recent weeks he has tried to do more listening than talking and has sought wisdom and advice from people he respects. In doing so, Hunter announced Friday on his social media account he feels the South’s Defenders Memorial Monument should have no place on the lawn of the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse.
“In the year 2020, a courthouse lawn is not the place for this monument,” he said.
The statue, erected in 1915, is dedicated to the memory of Southwest Louisiana’s fallen Civil War soldiers.
“The Civil War was one of this nation’s bloodiest conflicts, leaving death and destruction on so many fronts,” Hunter said. “For some, acknowledging those who fought and died is a very personal and altruistic matter. Likewise, for many citizens, the statue represents a painful chapter in our history, and its existence on a public square acts as a daily reminder about a bygone, unjust era and a lingering racism.”
The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury would decide whether the monument should be removed. It was last considered in 1995, when a committee agreed it should remain on display. Police Jury President Tony Guillory released a statement on Wednesday, saying that police jurors are “in a period of active listening” on the monument.
Hunter said the statue should not be destroyed or erased, but should be “relocated with thoughtfulness and modern context.”
He said he didn’t have an answer for where the statue should be relocated, but said he is “willing to be a part of a constructive conversation about this and how to move forward together.”
While some may disagree with his opinion on the monument’s removal, Hunter said he believes “that while certain issues are polarizing at the present time, the history books will one day recount that the citizens of Lake Charles used a difficult moment in history to bring our community closer together rather than further apart.”
Hunter said he’s also willing to join in conversations revolving around police practices statewide.
“As society evolves, policing does as well,” Hunter said. “A recent unanimous vote by the Louisiana Senate approved a proposal by Sen. Cleo Fields to begin a conversation on police practices statewide, and the city intends to actively participate in this important discussion. I have confidence in our chief of police and in the men and women of the Lake Charles Police Department. Enhanced communication and understanding between law enforcement and the community benefit all of us.”
The Rev. J.L. Franklin, president of the Southwest Louisiana Community Coalition for Action, said Hunter’s announcement was a “bold and courageous statement from a public official.”
“We stand with the mayor and are so grateful that he made such a courageous act,” Franklin said. “Calcasieu Parish and Lake Charles have a great opportunity to heal now. It’s not going to wipe away all our issues, but it will begin the healing.”
Franklin said his organization is “elated.”
“This shows someone else is listening to the concerns of African Americans,” he said. “We have exceptional respect for Mr. Hunter making that stand.”