Battle over Beauregard statue continues

DeRidder residents remain divided over the Beauregard Police Jury’s motion last week to request the statue of P.G.T. Beauregard be brought to the parish after its removal from New Orleans.

Police jurors approved the request Tuesday, with one vote against. The motion came nearly two years after resident Charles Bordelon said he first expressed interest in bringing the statue to the parish.

Beauregard statue

Associated Press

Once the Police Jury began making an effort to request the statue earlier this month, Bordelon said he had received pledges to assist with moving the statue so that there would be no cost to the parish.

“It’s something that is important to a lot of people in this parish,” he said. “And I have a list of people who are willing to do their part in getting it here.”

Beauregard, born in St. Bernard Parish in 1818, became a general in the Confederate army and ordered the attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. After the war he helped spearhead a unification movement working for equal rights in New Orleans.

“The movement was a coalition made up of prominent white and black New Orleanians that called for integrated schools, public places and transportation and voting rights for black men, two years before Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and nearly a century before the enactment of major civil rights legislation in the 20th century,” James Karst wrote on Nola.com in May. “Beauregard was the group’s chairman.”

When Calcasieu Parish was divided in 1912, the northern section was named Beauregard Parish after the general. Police Jury President Rusty Williamson said that was the only reason he requested the statue.

“This was never intended to be controversial or racial in any way,” Williamson said. “He is simply our namesake and a part of this area’s history.”

Since last week’s vote, Williamson said, residents in Merryville, Longville and Pitkin have all asked to house the statue.

Still, many DeRidder residents oppose the request for the statue. Local pastor Mike Harris said the statue represents a dark past that many are trying to move beyond.

“We are not running from our history, and we are not ashamed of it. But this is something that would hinder our efforts to move past that history,” he said.

“We don’t want to see the statue destroyed, and actually we think it would be better suited to be in a museum. We just do not want to see this in our city. That is not what we want to be known for.”

Harris said future meetings to discuss the issue are being planned. “We want to handle this intellectually and peacefully,” he said.

A bust of Beauregard stood near the entrance to the parish courthouse until renovations began last year and is now housed in the Police Jury’s building. Williamson said the bust will be moved back to the courthouse once renovations are complete later this year.

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