SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — During a special meeting Tuesday, Caddo commissioners adopted the $82,776,407 operating and capital improvement budget for fiscal year 2020.
It includes $500,000 to pay for the removal of the 30-foot-tall marble and granite monument erected in 1905 on the north side of the Caddo Courthouse lawn in downtown Shreveport.
The statue could not be moved in 2019 because the funding to do so will be unavailable until January.
But now there’s also the matter of a lawsuit filed by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
That organization filed for an injunction to stop the removal of the Confederate statue just days before a 90-day deadline expired Nov. 26.
That deadline came from Donna Frazier, the parish attorney, who sent a letter to the United Daughters of the Confederacy on Aug. 28.
The missive instructed the organization to move the monument or lose it after the deadline, giving ownership of the 116 -year-old statue to Caddo Parish.
On Nov. 29, a Caddo District Court judge ordered that neither the parish nor the commission could move it — for now.
A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13 in Caddo District Court.
That’s when the parish will make its case to remove the monument.
It was April 15 when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s request to overturn a lower court’s ruling.
That ruling was in the parish’s favor on the question of whether it and not the United Daughters of the Confederacy owns the land under the monument.
Then on Oct. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court declined their appeal to the high court.
That effectively ended the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s legal battle in federal courts.
The Caddo commissioner who on July 31, 2017, originally proposed removing the monument says the removal of the Confederate flag at the site in November 2011 renewed attention to the monument.
Lyndon B. Johnson said that the idea to remove the monument has been percolating for years and that he made his proposal after months of discussion with fellow commissioners and community leaders.
A citizens advisory panel was established in May 2017. It held public hearings over that summer before recommending a compromise to the commission in August 2017.
The compromise would have kept the Confederate monument where it stands.
It would then add two monuments nearby, honoring leaders of the civil rights movement and Reconstruction.
But, ultimately, it was Johnson’s proposal that the commission approved Oct. 19, 2017.
For Johnson, it was all about timing.
“You had other statues being taken down across the United States. You had rulings across the United States in favor of taking them down. And so, timing. I mean, New Orleans had already taken theirs down.”
It was that commission vote which ushered in the two-year legal battle in the federal court system.
As for where the parish might move the Confederate monument, Johnson suggested: “I’ve heard that Norton Art Gallery wants it. It could go to a state museum. It can go to cemetery, veterans cemetery.”
KSLA News 12 reached out to the attorney representing the United Daughters of the Confederacy several times and is awaiting a response.