Because of the security risk and threats placed on contractors seeking to do the work, details about the removal of the statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and the P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue will not be provided to the public. Additionally, today, city of New Orleans leaders announced that the city has secured the private funding necessary to relocate all four statues.
The plan to keep details about the statue removals was affirmed today (Monday, April 24) after the first statue was removed in the wee hours of Monday morning. While most New Orleanians were sleeping, the city began the process by removing the Battle of Liberty Place statue located on Iberville Street. The statue, one of four the city intends to move, was originally erected to honor members of the “Crescent City White League” who fought against the racially integrated city of New Orleans police and state militia.
The decision to remove these statues was made after a lengthy public process that determined these statues failed to appropriately reflect the values of diversity and inclusion that make New Orleans strong today.
For proponents of the monuments’ removal, the after-hours activity to get the ball rolling was welcomed news.
“While we continue to seek civil rights justice in the areas of education, employment, housing and others, this is a welcome semblance of the long overdue road to civil justice and advocacy in New Orleans,” said Gloria Hall-Johnson, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “Kudos to the leadership of Take ‘Em Down NOLA that has worked tirelessly to lead the struggle to ride our community of these racists symbols of white supremacy. These statues of reigned in prominent locations for far too long.”
Take ‘Em Down NOLA is the coalition of of New Orleans residents and organizations that has pushed and protested for the removal of the statues.
Other monuments slated for eventual removal include the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle; the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway; and the P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue on Esplanade Avenue at the entrance to City Park. In each case, the statues were erected decades after the Civil War was over as part of the “Cult of the Lost Cause” and to demonstrate that there was no sense of guilt for the cause in which the South fought the Civil War. Despite a prominent statue of him placed in the City, General Robert E. Lee had never set foot in New Orleans.
“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,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “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.”
This process to remove these statues has been a long one that began early in 2015 with heated public hearings and committee recommendations. Finally, during a special meeting, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 in support of an ordinance that declared that the four Confederate monuments are nuisances pursuant to city code and should be removed from their prominent locations in New Orleans. In December 2015, Mayor Landrieu signed an ordinance calling for the removal and relocation of the Confederate monuments. Lawsuits by critics of the monuments’ removal threated to stop progress. However, the removal of the Liberty Place statue follows a decision on March 8, 2017 by the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana affirming the City’s legal right to remove the statue.
After initially moving the statues to storage, the City will seek a museum or other facility to relocate the statue.