Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged Wednesday the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from the center of New Orleans' Lee Circle, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. After a white supremacist killed nine people last week at an historically black church in South Carolina, politicians throughout the American South have begun to reconsider the role of Confederate symbols in public spaces.
The statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee -- who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War -- has been in the center of Lee Circle since it was erected in 1884. Previously it was known as Tivoli Circle.
"Symbols really do matter," said Landrieu at the gathering, according to the Times-Picayune. "Symbols should reflect who we really are as a people. We have never been a culture, in essence, that revered war rather than peace, division rather than unity."
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As Alabama removed Confederate flags from its state capitol grounds Wednesday morning under the order of the Gov. Robert Bentley and South Carolina politicians pushed to take the flag down from their own state house grounds, Landrieu's remarks spoke to the suddenly spreading movement to move away from America's Confederate past.
"These symbols say who we were in a particular time, but times change. Yet these symbols --statues, monuments, street names and more -- still influence who we are and how we are perceived by the world," a spokesman for the mayor told the Times Picayune. "Mayor Landrieu believes it is time to look at the symbols in this city to see if they still have relevance to our future."
New Orleans has had a fraught racial history, which came up most recently during Hurricane Katrina, when the local, state and federal governments were accused of ignoring the plight of poor black neighborhoods during the flooding. The Times-Picayune reported that officials would be examining the legacy of racism and Confederate symbols in the city in preparation for its tricentennial in 2018.
Amazon, Alibaba, Walmart, eBay and Sears all announced this week they would stop selling Confederate flag merchandise.