On Monday, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban the removal of monuments without a referendum; this prompted a walkout by members of the Legislative Black Caucus, who said in a news conference on Tuesday morning that the vote revealed “a deep-rooted belief in white supremacy.” Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, called the bill unnecessarily divisive and problematic.
Still, the atmosphere Tuesday was more subdued than at previous removals. The demonstrators, pro and con, numbered in the dozens, and their ranks dwindled as the night went on. Kayakers paddled up in the nearby bayou to watch. A brass band appeared seemingly out of nowhere after midnight and played “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
“This is like a parade. I’m having a good time,” said Sidney Fava, 68, a former worker on the railroad and riverfront who brought along his own trumpet and played a few solos. “I got enough problems without worrying about a monument coming down.”
Perhaps passions did not run as high for Beauregard, despite his having as strong a connection to the city as any Confederate figure, and having championed the design of the Confederate battle flag waved by so many protesters.
He was born just outside the city into a French-speaking family of slaveholding aristocrats and ran for mayor of New Orleans in 1858. Three years later, troops under his command in Charleston, S.C., fired the shots on Fort Sumter that kicked off the Civil War, making him an early Confederate star.
But his reputation dwindled with later military setbacks, exacerbated by his Napoleonic grandiosity. After the war, he returned to Louisiana, earned a lot of money, lent his public face to the state lottery and, most unexpectedly, supported equal rights for freedmen, largely as a tactic to undercut political support for Reconstruction Republicans.
These details came up here and there on Tuesday, though the protesters mainly stuck to the big arguments: whether the removal was a sign of a despotic government or whether it was a welcome sign of progress.
Or, as in the eyes of Cedric, 51, an African-American man who preferred not to give his last name, whether it was all somewhat overblown.
“The only reason people started paying attention to this is because they brought attention to it,” he said. “I even looked up who Beauregard was the other day.”