New Orleans residents woke up today (April 24) to one less Confederate statue within the city’s limits. Officials just took down the Battle of Liberty Place Monument—the first of four Confederate statues slated for removal.
The monument was erected to commemorate the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place, in which members of White supremacist group Crescent City White League violently attacked the racially integrated Metropolitan Police Department to advance the cause of segregation. Per USA Today, the statue—which was created to honor the fallen White supremacists—was removed at 5:35 a.m. local time.
There was reportedly a small group of protestors on site who argued that the statue’s removal was an attempt to erase history and that it dishonored the legacy of the men whose names are imprinted on it. “None of them owned slaves, none of them were fighting for slavery,” protestor Paul McIntyre told USA Today. “In the documents you can access, it tells you it’s over state’s rights.”
Workers wore bulletproof vests and scarves over their faces. Nola.com reports that previous contractors assigned to the removal received death threats. Three more statues will be removed, but the city will not release dates ahead of time. They depict Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard—all major actors in the Civil War—and each will be moved to a museum. The effort was nearly thwarted by a lawsuit, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit threw out the challenge in March, opening the door for the city to proceed using private funding.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a statement about the statue removal earlier today. From that statement:
The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion and tolerance. Relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once. This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile—and most importantly—choose a better future. We can remember these divisive chapters in our history in a museum or other facility where they can be put in context—and that’s where these statues belong.
Leaders of advocacy group Take ’Em Down Nola told press while they are excited that the monument was removed, they do not like the city’s methods.