LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana -- Just days ago, officials in Louisiana's Calcasieu Parish voted not to move a Confederate statue from its prominent place in front of the courthouse. Then Hurricane Laura came along and toppled it.
The South's Defenders Monument was knocked off its pedestal as the Category 4 monster swept through the southwestern Louisiana parish. On Thursday morning it could be seen lying on its side next to its still-standing base - broken tree branches strewn on the grass around it - as a steady stream of onlookers took photos.
Dozens of similar statues are scattered across the United States, mostly in the South, and many are conspicuously located in front of courthouses or in the town square.
Residents against removal argue the monuments are pieces of Southern heritage that are historically educational and honor fallen relatives. But opponents insist they are brutal reminders of slavery and Black oppression.
Officials in many cities and states have decided to remove Confederate statues from places of honor over the past few months amid nationwide protests against racial inequality and police brutality. New Orleans took a similar step to remove four controversial monuments in 2017.
The statue in Lake Charles was dedicated on June 3, 1915, according to the American Press. The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, the parish's governing body, voted Aug. 13 to keep the monument in its place after a sometimes heated public debate involving parish residents.
One of them, Lois Malveaux, spoke in favor of the statue's removal.
"The Confederate soldiers were in favor of slavery. Being a Black woman, the pain is real in my soul. God is destroying all evil symbols of hatred across the world," she told the jurors, according to the newspaper.