BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday refused to block the removal of a Confederate monument that was erected on courthouse grounds in north Louisiana more than a century ago.
United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Shreveport chapter sought a court order to stop Caddo Parish officials from moving the monument, but U.S. District Judge Robert James rejected the organization’s request for a preliminary injunction.
The chapter sued the parish commission in October after a majority of commissioners voted to remove the monument from the courthouse square.
United Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned a sculptor to build the monument decades ago, but the judge said the chapter hasn’t proved it owns the land where the 30-foot-tall, marble and granite monument has stood since 1906. The monument, which has busts of four Confederate generals, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
The chapter’s lawsuit says the minutes of a 1903 meeting by the Caddo Parish Police Jury state that the 400-square-foot parcel of land was “reserved” for installing the monument. But the judge said the word “reserved” doesn’t mean the land was intended to be donated to the chapter.
“UDC faces the uphill battle of trying to prove that the words of 1903 minutes are sufficient to establish its ownership of that plot as a matter of law,” James wrote. “Based on the evidence presented, the Court concludes that UDC has failed to meet that burden, or to show that it is entitled to relief otherwise.”
On Oct. 19, the parish commission passed a resolution that said “citizens would be better served if the monument was placed in a museum or at another site dedicated to memorials, instead of the Courthouse where justice is to be administered fairly and impartially.” It authorized the parish administrator to pursue “all legal means” of removing the monument, parish attorneys said in a court filing.
The lawsuit claims the commission’s resolution violated the chapter’s First Amendment right to exercise free speech on personal property. Removing the fragile monument could damage it, the suit said.
The parish says it has owned the land since the 1840s and has the authority to remove items from public property.
“If anything, by erecting the monument on public property, a sound argument can be made that the parish owns the monument and has the authority to dispose of it in any manner it pleases,” parish attorneys wrote.