NEW ORLEANS – Just hours after work crews took down the first of four confederate-era monuments slated for removal, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu addressed the city’s controversial decision to remove what he called monuments to the “lost cause of the Confederacy.”
Landrieu addressed the media in front of a memorial to fallen police officers in front of the New Orleans Police Department’s main office.
“Though our past has been marked by racial division, today we are moving to a place of healing, a place where the police and the community are one,” Landrieu said.
The backdrop, Landrieu said, was especially meaningful given the history behind the Battle of Liberty Place monument on Iberville Street in a corner of the French Quarter, which was removed in the early morning hours by a heavily-guarded work crew.
“This statue was originally erected to honor the members of the Crescent City White League, who revolted against the racially integrated New Orleans Police and state militias,” Landrieu said. “The statue was put up to honor the killing of police officers by white supremacists.”
Three other statues – of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis – have all been designated as a public nuisance by the City Council and are slated for removal.
“Of the four that we will move, this statue is perhaps the most blatant affront to the values that make America and New Orleans strong today,” he said.
Landrieu said he wants the entire city to remember “all of history,” and not just the “lost cause” ideology that became prevalent in the south after the Civil War that cast the defeated Confederacy as honorable guards of the Southern lifestyle.
“We will no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal in the heart of our city,” Landrieu said. “The removal of these statues sends a clear message, an unequivocal message, to the people of New Orleans and to the people of our nation that New Orleans celebrates our diversity.”
The work crew was forced to operate under the cover of night after city officials and construction crews that put in public bids to do the removal work came under heavy threats, culminating in the torching of a Baton Rouge based contractor’s Lamborghini in January, which the contractor said was done in retaliation after he put in a bid.
The remaining statues will be removed, Landrieu said, but he said the time and date of the removals will be kept secret for the sake of security.
“The threats have been fairly aggressive, and I think you have seen the results of some of it,” he said. “So for the safety and security of everybody that’s involved in it, we’re not going to disclose those details.”
The statues will come down “sooner rather than later,” Landrieu said.