A 102-year-old Confederate monument could soon leave the St. Landry Parish Courthouse Square, destined for an undetermined location.
Despite a series of passionate arguments presented by proponents and Confederate veterans groups who want the monument to remain in downtown Opelousas, the St. Landry Parish Council unanimously determined otherwise last week.
The Council is giving parish president Jessie Bellard at least 30 days to gather more information about where the monument could eventually be placed and how much it might cost parish government.
Council members said they are open to perhaps donating the monument to anyone who wants it, sending it to a museum or relocating it in an area where Confederate artifacts have already been placed.
Bellard told the Council he is not sure whether it is appropriate or legal for parish government to sell the monument.
Although parish government apparently now owns the monument which was originally dedicated in 1920 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Bellard said at this point that he opposes offering the monument outright for sale.
Bellard’s research obtained from a 1919 Opelousas Clarion Ledger newspaper article indicates that the Police Jury donated $600 to assist with the cost of the monument which was funded by donations issued to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which organized the construction effort.
Council Attorney Garrett Duplechain noted that there is no evidence that the United Daughters ever owned the monument.
“Parish government owns (the monument) and is not trying to take ownership. Parish government has to decide whether it remains (at the Courthouse) or not,” Duplechain said.
Numerous members of groups associated with Confederate veterans spoke at a Parish Council meeting Wednesday night and told council members the monument was placed on Courthouse property in an effort to honor parish residents who fought for the Confederacy.
Many of those who spoke traced the service of parish ancestors who were also Confederate soldiers and denied the monument was placed at the Courthouse to intimidate Blacks who at the time were experiencing voter registration difficulties along with opposition from the Ku Klux Klan and Knights of the White Camelia.
“The monument wasn’t put there to keep people from coming up here to vote. We want to keep the monument here in order to honor our ancestors,” Scott Fuselier said.
Former District Attorney Charles Cravins asked a Council Finance Committee March 2 to remove the monument, a request that he again made on Wednesday night.
Cravins said he doesn’t consider the monument to represent a Black or White issue, but one of right and wrong.
“I think the monument stands for what is the worst in us,” said Cravins who said the monument was placed at the Courthouse as a way of intimidating Blacks during the 1920 who were fighting the effects of Jim Crow laws carried out in St. Landry.
Council member Wayne Ardoin asked Cravins why Cravins hadn’t summoned the monument issue before this time as a matter for parish government to consider.
Ardoin pointed out Cravins has worked at the Courthouse for over two decades and during that time had not complained about the existence of the monument.
“I don’t think there is ever a wrong time for something like this or to say enough is enough and that you can’t take it anymore,” Cravins said.
Cravins admitted that he had noticed the monument before and examined the inscriptions made to parish Confederate veterans.
“I saw it and I thought this does not belong in St. Landry, not here,” Cravins said.
Opelousas Downtown Develop District chairperson Lena Charles said the monument also represents “division at its worst.”
Charles said she thinks the parish is currently coming together socially and it would be wrong to keep the monument at the Courthouse.
“It doesn’t belong where we have the seat of our parish or at the Courthouse,” said Charles.