NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by a man who argued that a statue of Andrew Jackson should be removed from New Orleans’ Jackson Square — a sideline skirmish in the city’s larger legal battle to take down monuments to Confederate heroes.
Judge Carl Barbier said in Tuesday’s ruling that the lawsuit is an “empty gesture” by Richard Marksbury, who actually opposes the removal of any statues.
Barbier rejected Marksbury’s argument that he was treated unfairly when he was denied a hearing before the full City Council, instead of just a council committee, to argue for removal of the statue of Jackson. Marksbury didn’t return a Tuesday afternoon call for comment.
Marksbury has been critical of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council for their votes to remove statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a monument honoring whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans. He has publicly argued that removal of those monuments under an ordinance allowing the council to rule them a public nuisance clears the way for the removal of other city icons honoring controversial figures.
That includes the statue of Jackson, a hero in the Battle of New Orleans against the British in 1815 and a former president, but also a slave owner widely criticized now for his policies against American Indians.
The statue, erected in the 1850s, portrays Jackson doffing his hat while astride a rearing horse. It is perhaps the city’s best known piece of public art, located at the center of Jackson Square in the French Quarter with the majestic St. Louis Cathedral as a backdrop.
More recently, it has become a side issue in the monument debate. Although Barbier cast Marksbury’s effort as an attempt to “place the Mayor and City Council in a quandary,” some backers of tearing down the Confederate monuments also have embraced the issue, gathering in Jackson Square last month to call for the Jackson statue’s removal.
The arguments began last year when Landrieu first urged, and the council approved, removal of four monuments. That followed what police said was white supremacist’s killing of nine parishioners inside the African-American Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June of last year.
Supporters of the Confederate monuments challenged the city’s move in federal court. Barbier has ruled in the city’s favor and that ruling is being weighed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently heard arguments.