A crowd of about 200 protesters gathered on top of Art Hill in Forest Park, St. Louis, on Saturday, to demand the removal of the statue of the city’s namesake, King Louis IX of France, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (Should he stay or go? Protesters clash over statue of St. Louis’ namesake). They were facing a rather smaller crowd that was praying for the statue’s preservation.
If any statue in these United States deserves to be toppled, it’s this one. King Louis the 9th hated Jews with a venom. Four years after his coronation, in 1230, he issued the famous Ordinance of Melun, forbidding the Jews to engage in any money lending activities. In 1234, he seized one-third of the debts owed to the Jews and decreed that in the future they would be permitted to take pledges only in the presence of trustworthy witnesses.
Louis took no measures to protect the Jews from persecution by crusader recruits in 1236 in the provinces of Anjou, Poitou, Mançois, Touraine, and Berry. In 1242, Louis burned 24 cartloads of Jewish books, including the Talmud. When Innocent IV, petitioned by Jews that they could not teach the Bible without the Talmud, ordered it to be reexamined, but Louis had none of that and in December 1254 threatened to expel any Jew who kept copies of the Talmud or other banned books.
In 1268 Louis called for the arrest of all the Jews and the confiscation of their property in preparation for their eventual expulsion. A year later, under the influence of the apostate Pablo Christiani, Louis downgraded the decree to ordering the Jews to wear a distinctive badge and instructed his officers to force Jews to attend missionary sermons.
Umar Lee, one of the protest organizers, said on Saturday: “This guy right here represents hate and we’re trying to create a city of love. We’re trying to create a city where Black lives matter. We’re trying to create a city where there is no anti-Semitism or Islamophobia … this is not a symbol of our city in 2020.”
The statue, officially named the Apotheosis of St. Louis, was the principal symbol of the city between the time it was erected, in 1906, and the construction of the St. Louis Gateway Arch in the mid-1960s. The bronze statue was donated by the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company after the 1904 World’s Fair in the city. It is a replica of a plaster statue that stood on the concourse of the Plaza of St. Louis, near the main entrance to the fair (the Missouri History Museum stands there today). The sculptor, Charles Henry Niehaus, offered to forge a bronze version of the plaster model for $90,000, but the company took a lower bid, $37,500, from a local artist, W. R. Hodges. Niehaus sued the company for infringement of his intellectual property rights, and he was awarded $3,000 and a sign saying “designed by C. H. Niehaus” was inscribed on the pedestal.
The SLPD reported that Moji Sidiqi of the Regional Muslim Action Network said the city of St. Louis should be renamed to reflect the city’s racial, ethnic and religious diversity. “It’s a revolution,” she said. “It’s time for change … right now, our number one mission is to take this thing down and sit down with people who want to see positive change take place and continue to heal our country.”
Meanwhile, the good citizens of Columbus, Ohio, want to change the name of their city, and one of the most popular suggestions for a new name is Flavortown, in honor of celebrity chef Guy Fieri, who was born in Columbus. (Go sign the petition: Change the name of Columbus, Ohio to Flavortown).
At some point I just know we’ll revisit the 1190 pogrom of the Jews of York, and demand that New York City be renamed something more appropriate. Mario Batali comes to mind.