June 2, 2003
Reported by Janelle MacDonald
Should it stay or should it go?
Sunday night, a group of people who had attended a prayer vigil for Wilbert Rideau marched to the south's defender monument, laid a wreath and demanded the monument come down.
The monument on the courthouse lawn was first erected in 1915, this is not the first time it's sparked controversy. Calcasieu Parish School Board member Rev. JL Franklin was one of the organizers, "White oppression be removed from the grounds of this courthouse."
In 1915, the steps of the Calcasieu Courthouse were full for the dedication of the south's defender monument.
But in 1918, the six foot statue of the Confederate Color Bearer on top of the monument tumbled down during a hurricane.
The statue came down again in 1946 because it was leaning and again in 1995 following a storm.
Shortly before the 1995 storm, the police jury received a request to take down the monument. Once the storm had passed a new controversy brewed between those who thought the monument should stay and those who would have liked to see it go.
Today the monument stands, but in 1995 the police jury added this plaque saying the monument is in the spirit of healing and reconciliation.
Still, some like Urise Gauthier, says the monument is a symbol of slavery and oppression, "You can tear it down to me."
Lake area resident Brian Wood weighed in on the situation, "It's still the most racist part of the United States and so now I'll get off the fence and say pull it down."
But others, like Gary Jackson, believe the monument was put there for a reason, "It tells a lot about our history and I'm all right with it."
Lena Turner says, "Everybody has a right to their opinion but if it's there for a reason to honor servicemen or whatever, then I think it should stay."
And others like Patrick Schlesinger are just looking for a common ground, "I'm in the military myself, so there it's not a black white thing. Everybody's just together."
Mark Doucett has reaction, "The reaction to it should be one of understanding, not just tit for tat, saying you did this to me. We're all Americans, man you know?"
A new wreath was placed at the monument, in support of the soldiers who died, and perhaps a symbol that this controversy will continue.
Rev. Franklin says he will continue his efforts to have the monument taken down and he is planning future action.
The monument was dedicated on the 108th anniversary of Jeff Davis' birth, which was then also Louisiana's Confederate Memorial Day.
In 1915, the United Daughters of the Confederacy spent $3,500 for the statue. The police jury kicked in another $500 for the base and pedestal.
Historians suspect the 200 pound bronze confederate flag bearer was not specially made for Calcasieu parish because an identical statue is found in Easton Maryland.