Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Confederate Monument Continues to Raise Controversy

This monument sits in front of the Caddo Parish courthouse in downtown Shreveport.  The monument has been the center of controversy for more years than I can recall.  It portrays four Confederate generals and the Confederate flag and was placed on land supposedly donated by the Caddo Parish Police Jury to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1902.  However, according to this report by KTBS, a local news station, the property transfer never actually was recorded in the Clerk's office so the monument is still on public property.

Why is that an issue?

Because the NAACP doesn't like the monument; they don't think it should be on public land, especially in front of the courthouse.  The NAACP marched in protest against the monument in May of this year, just one week before the Louisiana Supreme Court was set to hear the appeal of Felton Dorsey.  The NAACP has filed an amicus brief in support of Dorsey.

Felton Dorsey was convicted and sentenced to death for the brutal murder of retired Fire Captain Joe Prock in 2006.  Prock walked in on a burglary in his mother's home; his mother was bound with her face covered as Dorsey beat her son to death with a pistol.  Dorsey set the house on fire before he left.

Now the twist:  Dorsey has appealed his conviction on numerous grounds, including the fact that the monument prevented him from getting a fair trial:

Mr. Dorsey claims he is innocent and seeks to overturn the conviction on numerous grounds, including that prosecutors used unreliable accomplice testimony. But race is a central part of the appeal. Mr. Dorsey contends that prosecutors improperly removed most of the prospective black jurors from the case, resulting in a jury of 11 whites and one African American.

He claims to have suffered additional discrimination due to the Confederate flag that has flown outside the Caddo Parish courthouse in Shreveport since 1951.

"The quintessential symbol of white supremacy looms over the courthouse," he said in his appellate brief.

One prospective juror was removed from the jury pool after expressing his feelings about the monument:

Carl Staples, a prospective black juror, was struck from the case by prosecutors after complaining about the flag.

The flag "is a symbol of one of the most…heinous crimes ever committed," Mr. Staples said, according to court briefs. "You're here for justice and then again you overlook this great injustice by continuing to fly this flag," he added, calling the flag "salt in the wounds of…people of color."

"When I was screened for the jury, it welled up inside of me and I expressed my feelings," Mr. Staples said in an interview. A part-time radio engineer and announcer in Shreveport, he said, "I don't understand how judges or lawyers allowed that flag to stand."

Does the fact that the monument is on public or private land change anything?  It could, I suppose.  

The comments attached to the KTBS article show that we haven't progressed very far with regard to race relations, and the NAACP seems to continually stir things up.  One commenter asks if the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue will also be removed; it, too, sits on public property. 

This is the description of the flag that flies on the monument which is the third national flag of the Confederacy:

The third national flag was adopted March 4, 1865, just before the fall of the Confederacy. The red vertical stripe was proposed by Major Arthur L. Rogers, who argued that the pure white field of the second national flag could be mistaken as a flag of truce. When hanging limp in no wind, the flag's Southern Cross canton could accidentally stay hidden, so the flag could mistakenly appear all white.
Rogers lobbied successfully to have this alteration introduced in the Confederate Senate. He defended his redesign as having "as little as possible of the Yankee blue", and described it as symbolizing the primary origins of the people of the South, with the cross of Britain and the red bar from the flag of France.

Defenders of the monument (and the flag) say it is history - leave it be.  Opponents say the flag "represents slavery."  

And now the monument could play a part in a death row case.

However you feel about it, the monument and the flag will likely continue to be a point of controversy as it has been for years.

(H/T:  The Dead Pelican)


Jazz One said...

It does sound like they are reaching for anything in that trial.

I can't say I agree (at all), but I can see where they are coming from.

Say this defendant was Jewish and there is a Nazi monument with a swastika flag on it. I doubt it would make any Jewish person feel like they would get a fair trail.

Maybe it is time to remove the monument, or at least the flag. Even the Germans are classy enough to not have the Nazi flag flying at one of their courthouses.

Anonymous said...

So we're Nazis?
I'm sick of seeing MLK pictures in public owned buildings. Where do I start to get them removed?

Jazz One said...

I wasn't inferring that anyone was a Nazi. Do you relate to the Nazis in my analogy? I think it is an apt comparison. Millions died under a flag in because of ethnicity. I see the slave trade in our country and the holocaust as fairly equivalent. I think flying the Confederate flag in the South is as offensive as flying the Nazi flag in places with a high Jewish population. Most of the arguments are fairly equivalent. The Germans and Southerners can both claim it is their heritage. The Germans would rather people forget that messed up part of their heritage.
I am American, a proud American. The Confederate States went to war with my country. They killed many many Americans. I am from the South and I was raised well and there is a lot of thing I appreciate about being from the South. I embrace that, but my allegiance is 100% American.

Anonymous said...

I was raised in the North and had several ancestors (including at least two great-great grandfathers) who were soldiers in the Union Army. I don't find the Confederate flag offensive or the flag of an army that "went to war with my country."
I grew up thinking that the Civil War was all about slavery and nothing else. I later found out that there were other issues involved, and actually slavery was a very minor issue concerning the war. The main issues were purely economic.
Everybody wants to talk about the atrocities of the pro-slavery South, but there were atrocities on both sides. A prime example is "Bleeding Kansas," where John Brown and other abolitionists committed atrocities that were equal to if not as bad as William Quantrill or "Bloody" Bill Anderson.
What about the atrocity of the slave ships that were flying the flag of "your country?"
What about slaves being held in states that were under the flag of "your country?" They were held as slaves until Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation 1863.
Do you know about the New York Draft Riots in 1863? If not, read about it and find out what the feelings people had about being drafted to go fight war to free the slaves. I won't say what they were saying , but it sounded a lot like something you would hear at a KKK rally, and they were people from "your country." So, don't call the people on the South racists just because of a flag.
Many in the North only thought they were trying to keep the union together, but when the issue of slavery came up, it was a different story, thus the New York Draft Riots.
The only difference between the Confederate flag and the flag of "your country" is the Confederate flag has been hi-jacked by hate groups.
On a side note, I love this country, too, and I served under the Flag of the United States.

Anonymous said...

I think it's another attempt for the left winged liberals and the state to over step their powers!