The city of New Orleans does more before 6 a.m. than most people do all day—at least when it comes to taking down nuisance monuments.
Imagine our surprise early Monday morning upon learning that contractors were busy taking down what was perhaps the biggest nuisance of them all—the monument dedicated to the Battle of Liberty Place and White supremacy.
Look, we know we had a slightly different view than many of our friends on the Confederate-era monuments debate. Back when this debate resurfaced in 2015, we editorialized that “We Got 99 Problems, And Lee Circle Ain’t One”. Of course, we never said they shouldn’t come down. We said it wasn’t worth debating. For our part, we believed we should focus on what we felt were much more salient issues. Still, we could appreciate the effort and energy of those who took up this cause. And we said as much in other editorials.
And with that we first want to send a shout out to Take ‘Em Down NOLA, the coalition of individuals and organizations, that pushed relentlessly for the removal of the monuments. The tenacity of its members has not gone unnoticed. You are the heroes in this battle.
Next, we have to give it up to Mayor Mitch Landrieu for taking the bold steps that needed to be taken—from opening the public sphere to this debate again to his own espousal of the monuments’ removal to making the call to get a crew out early Monday morning to take down the Battle of Liberty Place monument.
It’s really been a long time coming. Back in 2015, a city ordinance paved the way for these monuments to come down. But legal wrangling and protests from those against their removal stood in the way. This March, a ruling from a federal judge in favor of the city sealed the deal. However, the only bid received for the removal of the contract after the judge’s ruling came in at a whopping $600,000, with the contractor siting safety risks and insurance costs as concerns.
For his part, we imagine that the Mayor was done talking about it. He should have been. We were certainly tired of hearing about it. We were over the critics threatening violence against contractors who dared to do the work. We were over the ongoing argument over whether these statues were about history or hate. And when the one lone contractor offered a bid that at $600,000 was more than 3.5 times the city’s budget for the statues’ removal because of security and safety risks, we were definitely done. We’re with you Mr. Mayor. It’s not very often that quoting internet sensation in an editorial makes this much sense, but in this case as Sweet Brown says, “Aint nobody got time for that.”
So to move forward with what the city had every legal and moral right to do, the Mayor ordered the first of the monuments to be taken down in the wee hours of the morning with a small army of NOPD officers on hand . . . just in case. If that’s the move he needed to make, so be it.
Still, there are those who criticize the mayor for using the cover of night to begin the process of removing the monuments. They argue that somehow that was a sign of the city bending to the will of those who fought against the monuments’ removal. We say it was efficient and effective move. If that’s what had to be done, then it was well done, Mr. Mayor. We don’t see the move as a sign of trepidation, at all. In fact, we see it as a sign of resolve and determination to create a solution to a problem. Nonetheless, we get that you just can’t please everyone.
But, the reality is this thing had really gotten out of hand. Here we were—nearly two years, a series of public meetings, a city ordinance, a bunch of protests, threats of violence and at least one reported act of violence against a potential contractor, a few legal challenges and a judicial ruling into this thing—and until last Monday morning, all four of the monuments remained on prominent public display across our city. We weren’t moving forward. To be sure, it was like we were stuck in 1874. Enough was enough.
The city has said via a press release Monday that it will not announce when the other monuments will come down, keeping the exact dates and times of their removal a secret. It has also released few details regarding who is paying for their removal and how much it is costing. Right now, we don’t care if the city takes the rest of them—statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard—down at 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. At this point, it doesn’t matter how much it costs or who’s picking up the tab. All that matters is that they are taken down so that we can move on and focus attention on other more important matters. Thanks for moving us in that direction, Mayor Landrieu.