By Frederick H. Lowe
NEW ORLEANS—The City of New Orleans today removed a statue honoring Jefferson Davis, president of Confederacy, and there are more plans to remove the remaining two statues that celebrate the Confederacy and white supremacy.
The removal of the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway was completed during the early morning hours under extremely tight security as police and metal barricades separated groups who supported the removal and those opposed to it. Supporters of the Jefferson Davis statue waved Confederate flags and shouted ‘cowards’ at the workers.
Workers wore face masks to hide their identities because they and their companies have been threatened. They worked in an area where the roads leading to the parkway were closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said workers also would remove statutes of General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and General P.G. T. Beauregard, the Confederate Army commander who led the attack on Fort Sumter, marking the start of the Civil War. Davis later fired Beauregard because the two did not like each other.
Lee’s statue, which is located on Lee Circle, was erected in 1884 to honor him even though he never visited New Orleans.
The General P.G. T. Beauregard equestrian statue is located on Esplanade Avenue at the entrance to City Park. The statue was erected in 1915 to honor Beauregard.
Three weeks ago, workers protected by police snipers on rooftops and police standing guard, removed the monument that celebrated the White League’s Battle of Liberty Place.
A group of all white, mostly Confederate veterans overpowered the city’s integrated police force and militia until President Ulysses S. Grant ordered federal troops to enter the city to restore order.
Workmen erected the monument in 1891 on Canal Street to honor White League members who died during the Battle of Liberty Place. In 1932, the City of New Orleans, a white supremacist plaque was placed on the monument.
Due to intimidation, threats, and violence, serious safety concerns remain, city officials said in statement. Therefore, the city officials will not share details of a removal timeline for the Robert E. Lee and R.G.T. Beauregard statues. City officials also won’t say where they will relocate the statues.
Mayor Landrieu noted that the removal of the statues is an emotional issue for some but he asked that the public remain peaceful while exercising their First Amendment rights.
On March 8, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans ruled that city officials had the right to remove the monuments. In December 2015, Mayor Landrieu signed an order calling for the statues’ removal, following a 6-1 vote by city council who also wanted them gone.
“The removal of these statues sends a clear message and an unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion, and tolerance,” Landreiu said.
The removal of the statues might be completed before the National Association of Black Journalists holds its annual meeting in New Orleans August 9-13.