Dozens of residents marched to the steps of the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse on Monday to peacefully protest the South's Defenders Memorial Monument. They called on Calcasieu Parish police jurors to remove the long-standing monument from the courthouse grounds.
As the crowd, which included blacks and whites, made its way to the courthouse, they shouted, "Lake Charles, right now. The statue must come down," along with "No justice, no peace."
The monument – dedicated on June 3, 1915, to recognize local veterans who fought in the Civil War, along with soldiers from other towns in the South – has been a subject of controversy over the years. Some residents and local officials have called for its removal and labeled it as a symbol of racism and oppression against black people. Others have argued that removing the statue would disgrace war veterans and would erase history.
During the protest, several residents called for the monument to be moved to a historical museum. Darius Clayton said he wasn't aware of the monument for most of his life. But after learning about it, he said he is against it.
"I can't sleep at night with that statue standing right there in my backyard," Clayton said. "We can't have it anymore. Take the statue down!"
Malcolm Patterson urged the Lake Charles community to unify and speak out against the monument.
"There's plenty of things to glorify, but this (monument) isn't one of them," he said. "We're a great city, and we're very much bigger than that," he said while pointing to the monument.
Patterson said the protest isn't about defacing history.
"We are simply rewriting history the way it should have been written in the first place," he said.
Derrick Thornton said he doesn't recognize the monument as having any importance to him.
"It means nothing to me," he said. "It means nothing to the people in my family who died."
Just over a handful of residents showed up to defend the monument. One was waving an American flag.
The fate of the monument lies in the hands of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury. It was last considered in 1995 when a committee agreed it should remain on display.
A recent statement by Police Jury President Tony Guillory stated the panel is "in a period of active listening" on the monument.