A tall memorial that honors Confederate soldiers has stood in front of the Rapides Parish Courthouse for more than 100 years, but an organization of black attorneys believes it is offensive and should be removed.
Malcolm Larvadain, an attorney who is president of the Louis A. Martinet Legal Society, asked Rapides Parish police jurors to remove the memorial, which features a statue of a Confederate soldier on top. The society is made up of area African-American attorneys.
“In this day and age of 2016, I feel that that statue is offensive. Honestly, it should be placed in a museum,” said Larvadain, whose father, Ed Larvardain Jr., is a longtime civil rights attorney and whose brother, Ed Larvadain III, is an Alexandria city councilman. “I just feel the South was on the wrong side of history and humanity. I feel that it needs to come down. I can only imagine how people who look like me (black) who walk up to this courthouse and see this the statue and see the word ‘Confederate’ at the bottom of the statue, how they feel about that,” he added.
Police jurors did not take any action on Larvadain’s request because they said they’ll wait to see what happens with Senate Bill 276 by Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton.
The bill would create the Louisiana Heritage Protection Commission, which jurors said might exercise control over such memorials.
Police Juror Richard Billing says he’s against removing the statue because it is part of history. “I think it’s history. I think it declares who we are – the place in America,” Billings said. “We were Southerners. You’re a Southerner,” he told Larvadain. “Whether you like it or not, you were born here … raised here. Black or white, it’s history. We recognize black people all over, and I have no problem with that.”
He said he went to look at the statue only after he heard it would be raised as an issue.
“I don’t go by and salute it. I don’t agree with everything that’s been done. … I think it needs to stay where it is because of history,” Billings said.
“It is history, but it’s an ugly history,” Larvadain said. “That history involved enslaving people who looked like me, Mr. Overton, Mr. Perry, Mr. Fountaine.”
He was referring to the three black members of the nine-member Police Jury – Ollie Overton, Scott Perry and Theodore Fountaine.
The Confederate memorial was erected in 1914 by the Thomas Overton Moore chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, according to information on the base of the statue.
Most jurors did not seem that familiar with the Senate bill and noted the statue-removal request was new. The Senate bill, if it becomes law, might make it harder to remove a statue or memorial.
“Except as otherwise provided in this section, no memorial regarding a historic conflict, historic entity, historic event, historic figure or historic organization that is, or is located on, public property, may be removed, renamed, relocated, altered, rededicated, or otherwise disturbed or altered,” the bill reads.
It does note that a public entity may petition the commission for a waiver if it seeks to remove a memorial.
Fountaine, Overton and Perry each had a different take on the memorial.
“The statue should never have been put up, and it should come down,” Fountaine said.
Perry said Larvadain’s request caught him by surprise, and he noted he never paid much attention to the memorial.
“I’m going to wait and see what the Legislature does,” Perry said.
Jury President Craig Smith also said the jury wants to see the outcome of the Senate bill.
“If we have to, we’ll address it again,” Smith said of the request to have the memorial removed.
Overton said the memorial is “distasteful” to him and others, and he would like to see it removed.
He noted there would be cost in removing it, and he indicated he’d like to wait to see what happens with the Senate bill.
(Courtesy Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Mar. 19, 2016 ed.)