Defying death threats from white supremacists, and working under the watchful eyes of police, city workers removed an obelisk and its racist inscription from Liberty Place in downtown New Orleans starting at about 1:30 this morning.
The overtly-white supremacist monument is the first of four that Mayor Mitch Landrieu has worked for eighteen months to remove. Statues of Confederate generals and the president of the Confederacy will be next.
But the city isn’t telling anyone when the monuments to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and P.G.T. Beauregard are scheduled to be moved because contractors have received death threats for bidding on the work.
“All of what we will do in the next days will be designed to make sure that we protect everybody, that the workers are safe, the folks around the monuments are safe and that nobody gets hurt,” Landrieu told the Associated Press.
Landrieu said the memorials don’t represent his city as it approaches its 300th anniversary next year. The mayor said the city would remove the monuments, store them and preserve them until an “appropriate” place to display them is determined.
“The monuments are an aberration,” he said. “They’re actually a denial of our history and they were done in a time when people who still controlled the Confederacy were in charge of this city and it only represents a four-year period in our 1000-year march to where we are today.”
Erected in 1891, the so-called ‘Liberty Monument’ was installed by the Crescent City White League, which was exactly as racist as it sounds. The organization wanted to celebrate a failed 1875 attempt to overthrow the city’s Reconstruction government. Their inscription cheers the national election of 1876 which “recognized white supremacy in the south and gave us our state,” ending the brief post-Civil War era of multiracial governance.
The majority of modern New Orleans residents are black and the city council has a black majority.
Making the usual white supremacist excuses about “heritage” and “history,” the aptly-named Monumental Task Committee sued to prevent the monuments from being removed, delaying the process. According to the Advocate, the organization called for a candlelight vigil last night, but NOLA.com says that most participants were gone before the work began.
Two flatbed trucks arrived just before 2:15 a.m., carrying equipment to haul away the monument. The name of the company on the trucks’ sides was concealed by tape and cardboard. The workers wore black vests, yellow helmets and pieces of cloth to cover their faces, apparently to guard against identification.
“Workers who were inspecting the statue ahead of its removal could be seen wearing flak jackets and helmets,” the AP noted.
An embarrassment to New Orleans, the ‘Liberty Monument’ had been moved once before in 1989 and was only put back in a less-prominent position after another lawsuit.
At least one rabble-rouser was present to shout hysterically as the top of the obelisk was removed. His injured, fragile whiteness is palpable as he demands a “safe space” for symbols of white supremacy. Watch:
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