Sunday, April 30, 2017
In Defending Jefferson Davis Arlene Barnum is a Class Act


On April 22, Arlene Barnum’s biggest problem was that she’d worn the wrong petticoat to the Confederate memorial service in Keachi, Louisiana. “I wore the wrong petticoat today,” she told me. “This one’s too long.” By April 30, that petticoat was the least of her problems.


Arlene Barnum is a sixty-three year old Army veteran and staunch supporter of Confederate history; her ancestors are buried in the Confederate cemetery in Keachi, thus her annual attendance at the memorial service.


After the memorial service, Arlene heard about Mitch Landrieu’s midnight grab on the Liberty Place monument and knew she had to go to New Orleans to stand guard over the Jefferson Davis monument. With her Confederate battle flag tied to a sturdy crooked stick, she has been standing vigil at the monument since last Thursday and she live streams every moment of it. “I have to document this,” she says, “in case something happens.”


As the days have passed, more and more people have come out to support her. Various heritage groups as well as many local citizens have come from all over the South, all with flags.


Arlene is a strong woman and is no stranger to violence. In 2015, Barnum and Anthony Hervey were run off the road near Oxford, Mississippi after speaking at a rally in Birmingham where Arlene burned her NAACP card. Hervey was killed in the accident and Barnum suffered a broken foot. Arlene posted a plea for help on her Facebook page.


In New Orleans, Barnum stands in support of “the one and only President of the Confederacy” and refuses to engage with the hecklers that come by calling her “Aunt Jemima” or worse epithets. “Just don’t talk to them,” she can often be heard saying to other protesters standing near her.


Last night, Arlene was assaulted by an indignant young white woman who had just thrown water on a monument supporter. When Arlene asked the woman why she did that, the woman attempted to engage Arlene in a history debate. The conflict begins at 6:12 in the video. You can see the young woman admitting that she lives in the neighborhood and she says that she did indeed throw a drink on another protester.


“Y’all can pretend this isn’t about race,” the young woman says.


“You wouldn’t have done that to me,” Arlene responded.


Other people jump in and the girl continues to defend her actions. The young woman insisted,


“You can have a black person like on the front of your [F…] white supremacists bullshit but it’s still bullshit,” she says.


“I’m the one who organized this rally!” Arlene pointed out. “That’s all right,” the girl said, “it’s still bullshit.”


Attempting to preach to Arlene, the girl said “The [f’ing] Confederacy was built on defending the interests …of white slave owners and a lot of white people defected from the Confederate army; in fact a lot of white people were held at gunpoint …and they hid in the hills so they didn’t have to defend the Confederacy!”


“Who held a gun at your head and forced you to pour water on him,” Arlene demanded.


“Nobody,” she says. “I chose to do that.”


The woman holds her hand in front of her face for most of the video but then she knocks Arlene’s
phone to the ground and smashes it. Facebook sleuths have posted a photo of her and reportedly, NOPD are looking for her, but I have my doubts.


Also protesting in New Orleans is Andrew Duncomb; he is also from Oklahoma; Andrew is a black man who has attended many rallies in support of the Virginia battle flag across the south. Duncomb calls himself Black Rebel and is less reticent than Barnum in engaging the liberal millennials who show up at the monuments to heckle him.


Last night at the P.G.T. Beauregard monument Duncomb and his group were pelted with paintball guns, rocks, and verbal insults. When Barnum was attacked she insisted the police take a report, but at the Beauregard monument, the police told Duncomb they’ve been told by city leaders to stand down. Duncomb said in a video that when he asked the police department why they couldn’t get help “they had said they have a stand down order from getting involved with any conflict between the two groups,” either the protesters for or against the monuments. Duncomb promises a lawsuit to come because officers “took an oath to serve and protect.” He calls the situation a disgrace.


Arlene is okay – she is back at the monument today, in the rain. It will take a lot more than a snowflake with a mean stomp to slow her down. You can hear the fatigue in her voice but you don’t hear defeat. She’s in it for the long haul.


As for Mitch Landrieu, I believe his position is a bit more tenuous than it was this time last week. The firefighter’s union has come out against him and against his use of firefighters to remove the monuments. Landrieu has much more national attention on him right now than he did this time last week. His cronies are being exposed. He is opening himself up to investigation on one front after another.


Will that stop him? Probably not. And this battle is far from over. With Take Em Down NOLA still clamoring for the renaming of many of the landmarks in New Orleans, and from listening to the vitriol coming from the millennials at the protests, it’s clear that we have much work ahead of us to educate and protect.


But Arlene Barnum? She’s a warrior. She has backbone and strength these punk kids have never seen before and she’s doing it with class and integrity. She’s schooling them: you can protest with dignity and conviction and you don’t have to hurl curses and insults, rocks, bottles, paintballs.


Arlene Barnum is a class act.