NEW ORLEANS -- A plan to remove prominent Confederate monuments in New Orleans is being challenged in state court, and comes shortly after a federal judge dismissed a similar attempt.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday and again seeks to halt the city's planned removal of four Confederate monuments. The latest suit was filed by Pierre McGraw, president of the Monumental Task Committee Inc., a group that maintains the monuments.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier rejected a similar challenge by McGraw's group and other preservationists as well as a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They claimed the removal violated their constitutional rights and several laws.
In December, the City Council voted 6-1 to remove the monuments because they represent white supremacist ideologies. Removing the monuments has stirred passions on both sides.
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In the new suit, McGraw argues that he has a legal stake in the fate of the monuments -- a "property interest" according to the suit -- because he has "spent thousands of dollars of his own money and hundreds of hours of his personal time" on maintaining the monuments since 1987.
The suit seeks to halt the removal of monuments dedicated to Robert. E Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, both Confederate generals, and Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president.
The suit does not mention a fourth monument slated to be removed, the Liberty Monument. That monument was erected to honor the Crescent City White League's attempt to overthrow a biracial Reconstruction government in New Orleans after the Civil War. The monument's current location is tied to a federal consent decree; city lawyers say they are seeking to get that decree changed and have the obelisk removed.
McGraw declined to comment on the suit. His lawyer did not return a message seeking comment.
On Wednesday, Civil District Court Judge Piper D. Griffin denied a request for a restraining order against the city and set a hearing for Feb. 5, said Sarah N. McLaughlin, a city spokeswoman.
In addition to claiming McGraw has a legal stake in the monuments' fate, the suit charges that the city improperly pushed through the removal plan and that taking the monuments down could harm them.
"Considering the potential damage to these priceless works of art, there should be no rush to remove them now," the suit said.
The suit also challenges a city ordinance that defines the monuments a public nuisance because they foster supremacist ideologies. The suit argues that the monuments "do not conflict with Louisiana law" because the state has declared Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day public holidays.