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UPDATE: Judge postpones hearing on Mouton statue

Posted at 9:27 AM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 10:27:15-04

Although the parties were scheduled to meet in court today to argue again over whether Alfred Mouton should be moved, the hearing has been postponed.

The judge in the case canceled the hearing due to a medical issue.

The hearing now will have to be re-set, but there is no word yet on when that will be.

The city, the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, and a local group called Move the Mindset, which is dedicated to moving the statue, were to appear in court to argue the city's motion to dissolve a 40-year-old judgment and exclude the Daughters of the Confederacy from being involved in the decision altogether.

The statue, which was erected in the 1920s by the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, honors Alfred Mouton, a slave owner and general in the Confederate army. According to a study of confederate monuments by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were a wave of confederate monuments erected, starting about 1900 "amid the period in which states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the newly freed African Americans and re-segregate society. This spike lasted well into the 1920s, a period that saw a dramatic resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which had been born in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War."

Last month, Mayor President Josh Guillory announced that he wants to move the statue to protect it from damage, and because it is an "impediment to mutual respect, redemption and reconciliation." In his statement, Guillory said he would ask the council for a resolution of support.

Also last month, the City Council voted unanimously to support the move.

At issue is an injunction grated in 1980 as a compromise between the city and the Daughters of the Confederacy's local chapter - which is named for Mouton. Back then, the city was planning to move the statue from its current home at the corner of Jefferson Street and Lee Avenue to what was then the new city hall, a former Sears store that had been remodeled that is still city hall today. Instead of Mouton, there's a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, for whom the town is named, standing there.

When the Daughters heard about the plan in 1980, they began to call council members and the incoming mayor, Dud Lastrapes, as well as the contractors who had been hired to move the statue. They also filed a motion for a restraining order to halt the move until they could get to court.

Here's a letter, written by a member of the group, about what happened. It's part of the court record: width="595" height="842" style="float:center">

A year ago, members of Move the Mindset filed suit in state court, alleging that the Daughters of the Confederacy have "no private property interest in the statue or the land upon which it is erected," meaning they have no standing to be involved in court disputes over the location or movement of the statue. The group of plaintiffs, who live all over Lafayette, argue that the statue should be removed from public land and turned over to private ownership, for instance a museum.

The City also has filed motions to dissolve the 1980 judgment, echoing the argument that the Daughters of the Confederacy have no standing to be involved in the statue's future.

The Daughters of the Confederacy argue that they have standing because the city gave them standing in 1980 in negotiating and agreeing to the judgment that was rendered. They also argue that they have standing because of historical interest in the statute and its placement.

The Daughters of the Confederacy also argue against the city's position that conditions have changed since 1980, and those new circumstances mean the issue needs to be revisited.

"The City also argues that "nationwide statue toppling," allegedly caused by the death of George Floyd and "heightened racial sensitivity" mandates that the City relocate General Alfred Mouton's statue. The City is admitting to its inability to enforce the law, and protect persons and property from the "protesters," a filing states.

The Daughters of the Confederacy say there is no proof that they "unconditionally donated" the statue to the City.

They also object to the Move the Mindset plaintiffs' use of "The Confederacy" to serve as an abbreviation for their full name, which is "The United Daughters of the Confederacy Alfred Mouton Chapter #1514." It is common for parties to abbreviate long names in filings; it is not that common for parties to object to whatever abbreviation the opposing lawyer uses. The Daughters also object to the use of the document, which is embedded above, as evidence of what occurred back in 1980 when the first suit was filed.