Another Confederate monument in New Orleans removed: Jefferson Davis taken down overnight

3 years ago The Advocate 0

The monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis was taken off its pedestal on his eponymous street in New Orleans early Thursday morning, marking the halfway point of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s efforts to remove statues to three Confederate leaders and a white supremacist militia from public land.

Once again, crews in helmets, masks and body armor took down the statue – as they had done with the removal of New Orleans’ Battle of Liberty Place monument two weeks ago – in the dead of night with no official forewarning, precautions taken in response to threats against contractors and city officials working on the project. 

A crowd of a few hundred on-lookers, both pro- and anti-monuments, watched as workers used a crane to remove the monument from its pedestal. Those crowds included monument supporters who have kept watch at the statue since April 24 and those affiliated with Take ‘Em Down NOLA, an activist group that has called for the removal of a wide variety of monuments and other symbols in the city they say show reverence for white supremacy.

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“Today we continue the mission,” Landrieu said in a statement. “These monuments have stood not as historical or educational markers of our legacy and segregation, but in celebration of it.” 

In the past week, a chain-link fence was put up around the monument, creating a second ring of obstructions around the site where protesters have clashed. And, shortly before the statue’s removal began about 3 a.m., both sides were ushered into corrals of police barricades that had been set up beforehand, separated from each other by barriers and from the statue by more barricades, Canal Street and a line of officers. 

Removing the statue from its pedestal took about two hours, and once it was removed both sides left the scene. Crews continued to work on the scene into the early morning hours, though it was not clear when the pedestal would be removed.

The security around the monuments removal has come amid concerns over threats that have emerged in the nearly two-year process of taking them down. That’s led the city to withhold information on the timeline for removing any of the statues – including the monuments to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard that have yet to be removed.

But both sides of the issue saw their numbers swell by Wednesday evening, fed by rumors that after several false starts, the statue would be removed Thursday morning. 

“This morning we continue our march to reconciliation by removing the Jefferson Davis Confederate statue from its pedestal of reverence,” Landrieu said.

The city has given little indication what will happen to the name of the street itself. Early in the process, Landrieu had discussed renaming Jefferson Davis Parkway and Lee Circle, though the administration has never discussed the details of how a new name will be picked or when that might occur.

The ultimate fate of the statue and whether anything will replace it is similarly unclear. The statues are being stored in city warehouses while the administration tries to find a park or museum where they can be permanently housed. There have been few details given on what the process for commissioning new monuments might look like.

Last Sunday, crowds representing both sides of the monument argument met at Lee Circle — Lee towers over the Warehouse District — for what was a mostly peaceful protest separated by heavy New Orleans police presence.

The protest at the Davis statue was similarly calm. While the two groups shouted and taunted each other, there was no violence either between the groups or directed at police.

One man was detained by police. It was not clear whether he was arrested or what he had done.

The council voted to remove the four monuments — Davis, Lee, Liberty Place and Beauregard — in 2015 at the urging of Landrieu — part of a national response after nine black parishioners were shot to death by an avowed racist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier that year.

The shooter, Dylann Roof, brandished Confederate flags in several photographs that came to light soon after his arrest. Roof had said he intended to start a race war with the killings.

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