Calcasieu Parish police jurors are "in a period of active listening" regarding the South's Defenders Monument, a long-standing Confederate symbol located in front of the parish courthouse that has sparked controversy and calls for its removal over the years.
Guillory's statement acknowledged the "heightened level of discord on various matters related to race, including public policy and Confederate monuments." Earlier this month, 14th Judicial District Judge Ron Ware, along with Todd S. Clemons, a Lake Charles attorney, publicly called for its removal. The Police Jury would ultimately determine whether the monument should be removed.
"We are reaching out to people and groups in our communities to make sure we are hearing what the wide range of voices are saying," Guillory said in the statement. "That is one of our most important roles as elected officials."
The monument 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. During a 1995 rededication ceremony, a historic marker was introduced that stated the theme during the original dedication was of "national reconciliation and healing any lingering bitterness from the war."
A petition on the website change.org that is calling for the monument's removal and destruction has received just over 1,130 out of 1,500 signatures. It calls the monument "a century-old memorial to those who fought and died, not for the people of the South, but for the institution of slavery."
Supporters have argued that keeping the monument on display is important in remembering the history of the white and black Confederate soldiers who died in the war, and that removing it would be disrespectful to war veterans.
Lake Charles District A City Councilwoman Mary Morris backed a resolution in 2015 that called for the monument's removal, along with other Confederate symbols from display on public property. Morris filed the resolution following the mass shooting of nine people in a black church in downtown Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015. The resolution was rejected with a 4-2 vote.
The Police Jury has not discussed the fate of the monument since 1995, when a committee agreed to keep it on display.
Guillory asked Calcasieu residents to "display a mutual respect for differing opinions" on the monument.
"We ask for everyone's support in our efforts to address this matter in a sincere and meaningful way."