Man sues to stop New Orleans from removing Confederate statue

FILE PHOTO: P.G.T. Beauregard statue to be removed from New Orleans

(Reuters) – A New Orleans preservationist on Monday sued to stop the city from removing a statue of a Confederate general that critics say glorifies the era of slavery in the U.S. South.

The lawsuit, filed by Richard Marksbury in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, says the city cannot legally take down the statue of Confederate States Army General P.G.T. Beauregard because it does not own the memorial or the land it’s on.

“If that monument is removed, then they (the city) would open themselves up to some legal action,” said Marksbury, who is a member of the Monumental Task Committee, a volunteer group that works to preserve monuments in New Orleans.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu could not be reached for comment, but his office released a statement on Monday to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“At this point, the Monumental Task Committee’s time would be better spent working to find a museum or private land where these statues can be displayed in context rather than continuing to fight a lost cause,” the statement said.

An Orleans Civil District judge on Monday declined to issue an order that would temporarily block removal of the Beauregard statue, according to the Times-Picayune.

But the judge asked attorneys for the city to appear in court on Wednesday for oral arguments on the ongoing request for a preliminary injunction to halt the monument’s removal, the newspaper said.

Marksbury’s lawsuit is the latest legal challenge to the city’s decision in 2015 to remove Beauregard’s statue and three other monuments honoring leaders of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War.

In March, a U.S. appeals court ruled that New Orleans had a right to proceed.

The first of the four monuments was removed last month, with the aim of relocating it elsewhere. At that time, Landrieu said the removals would send a message of “diversity, inclusion and tolerance.”

On Sunday, supporters of the monuments, some waving Confederate flags, clashed with demonstrators near the site of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee that is also slated for removal.

In recent years, a string of southern states have moved Confederate-era monuments to museums, an effort that intensified after the June 17, 2015, massacre of nine blacks in a Charleston, South Carolina, church by a white supremacist.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Paul Simao and Michael Perry)