A judge is about to be thrust into the ongoing dispute over who owns the site of the Confederate monument that sits in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse.

A lawsuit filed Monday in Caddo District Court asks a judge to decide who owns the land on which the monument sits: The Caddo Parish Commission, which operates the courthouse and is considering whether to move the monument, or the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected the monument before the current courthouse was built.

"It's been discussed back and forth who owns it," said John Settle of Shreveport, who filed the suit. "Before the Commission goes through some knock-down, drag-out, I thought, 'Let's get (the issue of ownership) out there. Before we have more divisiveness and rancor over this, I think the court should decide."

Opponents of the monument want it moved, saying it is a symbol of oppression of African-Americans. Supporters of the monument said it symbolizes Southern heritage.

There are legal questions about whether the parish has the authority to remove the monument, which has the likeness of a Confederate soldier and the busts of four generals. The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the monument -- but ownership of the land on which it sits in murky.

The official parish position is that they own the land -- that the courthouse has been there since the early part of the 1900s and ownership has passed to the parish through what amounts to frontier rights.

An opposing position is that the courthouse square belongs to the descendants of Larkin Edwards, a friend of the Caddo Indians who sold much of the land that was the original Shreveport. There is no record that proves Edwards ever sold the land that is now the courthouse square. Early maps show it was to be a Public Square.

A citizen advisory committee has recommended the Confederate monument remain in front of the courthouse and two additional monuments be erected near it -- one to Reconstruction and the other to civil rights.

The decision on what to do is pending before the Caddo Commission, which could take up the matter next week.

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