- The South's Defenders Memorial Monument in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which honors fallen Confederate soldiers, has been the subject of controversy for decades.
- On Thursday, Hurricane Laura's fierce winds toppled the Confederate soldier atop the monument.
- The damage came just weeks after parish officials voted to keep the monument outside the local courthouse.
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After a long, protracted battle, local officials in Lake Charles, Louisiana, decided two weeks ago to keep a controversial Confederate monument up outside the parish courthouse. But then Hurricane Laura seemed to take matters into its own hands.
On Thursday, the storm's fierce winds sent the soldier atop the the South's Defenders Memorial Monument tumbling down.
"I think some people may be happy about this," Andrew Beam, a Lake Charles resident, wrote on Twitter along with photos of the toppled statue taken by his father, a parish administrator.
Like other Confederate statues across the US, the monument has been a subject of fierce debate. Dedicated in 1915 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the statue, which stands outside the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse, honors fallen Confederate soldiers from Calcasieu and nearby parishes.
The statue's defenders say it is a historical symbol of Southern heritage and pride, and not connected to slavery; proponents of removing it say it's racist, given that it celebrates a system built on slavery.
Local officials voted to keep the statue standing on August 13. But Hurricane Laura has now damaged the monument significantly, ripping off the Confederate soldier standing on top and twisting its ankles.
The hurricane made landfall about 30 miles south of Lake Charles around 1 a.m. CT, bringing sustained winds up to 150 mph to the coast. Beam told Business Insider that his father, Bryan, found the toppled statue hours after the storm hit.
George Floyd's death renewed calls to remove the Confederate statue
Residents of Calcasieu Parish have protested the South's Defenders Monument for decades, a local judge told local television station KPLC. Officials considered removing it in 1995, but ultimately let it remain.
During protests following George Floyd's death, calls for the statue's removal grew: A June Change.org petition argued that the monument "stands for a history of oppression" for the parish's Black residents, which make up about 26% of its population.
Lake Charles mayor Nic Hunter wrote on Facebook that same month that he supports removing the monument.
"In the year 2020, a courthouse lawn is not the place for this monument," Hunter said. "The statue should not be destroyed or erased. It should be relocated with thoughtfulness and modern context."
Dozens of parish residents protested the monument again in July, calling on the Calcasieu Parish's police jury — a local governing body — to remove it. Instead, the group voted to keep the statue up.
A pro-monument blog celebrated the decision, calling the protest "a truly unjust attack by radicals whose hidden agenda is to impose a far-left political tyranny on our area."
Beam said in another tweet that he has conflicted feelings about the monument.
"I don't think it should be there, but at the same time I don't feel it should be destroyed outright for historical reasons," he wrote.
On Thursday, Davante Lewis, a Louisiana resident and candidate for the East Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council, posted images of the statue bent sideways, its legs warped as it lay on the grass.
"Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish has been filled with controversy and tension after our parish government by a vote of 10-5 refused to take down the Confederate South's Defenders Monument," he wrote. "Hurricane Laura had other plans and brought it down herself."
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