Governor: State should not interfere with monument removal in New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS -- As a bill that would require a local vote before removing Confederate monuments advances in the Legislature, we're hearing what Gov. John Bel Edwards has to say about the controversy.

Edwards, a Democrat, attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, just like some of the Confederate soldiers depicted in the statues.

He said he took every history class, noting that the monuments have a place in history.

But he also believes that it's up to the communities where the monuments reside, and those communities should decide where that place in history is.

"If those monuments are removed, they ought to be put somewhere in a historically accurate, factual, appropriate setting ... like a museum," he said.

Edwards said the Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans are on city property and owned by the city. Judges have ruled that the city can take them down.

Edwards said he believes the state should not interfere with that process.

The governor made those comments a day after the Louisiana House advanced a bill that would require a local vote before any veterans monument or monument depicting military conflict is removed in Louisiana.

The bill has to make it through the state Senate, and then would head to Edwards' desk.

"We live in a representative democracy. We have monuments owned by … cities … and we have representatives governing those (cities)," Edwards said. "I don’t know what roles the state has in governing those decisions. I don’t know that the bill, even if it made it all the way through, would be done in time to address any of those things in New Orleans."

Edwards said his decision to sign the bill would depend on whether any changes are made to it before it lands on his desk.

He said the measure is problematic in its current form.

"For example, to require a vote of people before any of these not just statues or plaques or monuments, but any structure, can be altered or moved. It’s a real problem," he said. "Alex Box Stadium was torn down and moved recently. It’s named for a war hero. Are we going to require people to have a vote? The bill would say yes."