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General Mouton Monument Goes to Court

A Lafayette district court judge will hear arguments Tuesday, Jan. 21 that could pave the way for removing the monument to a Confederate general from downtown Lafayette.
A group of Lafayette citizens is challenging the legality of a permanent injunction granted to the city of Lafayette and local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1980 preventing the city from moving the monument of Confederate Gen. Alfred Mouton. The citizens’ group, operating as the nonprofit Move the Mindset, is asking a Lafayette judge to invalidate the 1980 injunction, clearing the way for the Lafayette City Council to consider moving the monument from its place of prominence in front of the old Lafayette City Hall at the corner of Jefferson Street and Lee Avenue downtown.

The Hub City’s public conversation about moving the monument out of a public place began soon after the June 2015 mass murder of black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleson, SC — murders committed by a self-described white supremacist. That public dialogue spilled into City Hall in February of the next year when heated discussions among residents happened before the former Lafayette City-Parish Council. However, the council and LCG’s legal department were notified of the existence of the 1980 permanent injunction and the council soon after declined to further discuss the monument or entertain legislation seeking its removal, citing the injunction.

The monument to Mouton was paid for and erected in 1922 at the height of the Jim Crow era by the United Daughters of the Confederacy Alfred Mouton chapter and donated to the city. The art deco Lafayette City Hall was built on the same lot 17 years later. The UDC threatened to sue in 1980 when the city announced plans to move the monument from the old city hall to the new city hall on St. Landry Street. Soon after, the city and UDC agreed to the permanent injunction.

In its petition to nullify the 1980 injunction, Move the Mindset makes two arguments: that the UDC didn’t have standing in the first place to seek the injunction, and that in entering into a permanent injunction, the city illegally prevented future generations of residents and their elected representatives from having any say in the fate of monument, which is maintained by taxpayers.

If Move the Mindset is successful and the permanent injunction is invalidated, it would only clear the way for a future ordinance seeking to move the monument to a private location. Not a done deal by any stretch. A council member would need to sponsor the amendment and it would need to be approved by a vote of the 5-member council and have the four out of five votes necessary to override a possible veto by the mayor-president.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge David Smith.