A crowd of about 100 demonstrators gathered just blocks away from the 2015 Essence Festival Saturday in New Orleans to express their desire to end the use of the Confederate flag and other remnants of Confederate pride.
The group used a $22 flag bought at the Confederate Memorial Museum, placed it on a charcoal grill and watched it burn while chanting, “Down, down with the racist monuments. Up, up with the people’s empowerment,” the Essence website reported. The site of the burning was under a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, at a circle named after him.
Protesters later marched down Magazine Street, where the National World War II museum is located, while singing, chanting, and signing a petition calling to remove the statue of Lee’s likeness.
“There are monuments like these all over the city and these symbols create the environment for police brutality and oppression,” said Quess, an man who helped organize the flag-burning demonstration. “Black lives really don’t matter if there are all of these monuments to our former oppressors.”
Although opposition to Confederate memorabilia has recently gained momentum after White supremacist Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine Black church-goers in North Carolina, displayed a Confederate flag on his clothing and car in photos, this fight is not a new one. Over the years, activists were successful in removing a monument that was in honor of a Confederate battle, as well as discontinuing the usage of many racist Southern figures’ names from schools.
Last week, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he planned to rename Lee Circle but that the change wouldn’t occur until 2018. However, protesters prefer for the change to happen sooner than later.
“We don’t need any more dialogue, we need demolition,” said Rev. Marie Ortiz, a 75-year-old activist who said she has been advocating for the removal of Confederate images since she was in her early 30s. “If his words were sincere and he meant it, it doesn’t matter when he takes it down. Now is the time to do it.”
Ortiz added that she wants a statue of New Orleans civil rights leader Rev. Avery Alexander to replace Lee’s figure.