New Orleans city workers came in the dead of night early Monday morning to remove a pro-Confederate monument as part of a citywide effort to erase public symbols seen by many residents as celebrating a racist past.
A crew arrived around 1:25 a.m. to pull down the Liberty Monument, a tribute to whites who fought against an integrated post-Civil War government in New Orleans. The stone obelisk is the first of four monuments slated to be removed in the coming months, Fox News reported.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who has spearheaded the controversial campaign to tear down the monuments, said the Liberty Monument had no place in a majority black city because it was erected to “revere white supremacy.”
“If there was ever a statue that needed to be taken down, it’s that one,” he said Sunday.
Landrieu originally proposed the monuments’ removal with strong support from city’s black residents. The New Orleans city council in 2015 voted 6-1 to to take the statues down, but the order was delayed until now by a series of legal fights.
Police officers accompanied city workers to the Liberty Monument site over concerns that opponents of the removal would try to disrupt the job. Crew members wore helmets and face masks for protection and to conceal their identities from a small but vocal group of pro-monument protesters.
The obelisk was taken down without incident, FOX8 New Orleans reported.
A volunteer organization called Monumental Task Committee ripped the city for dismantling the monument. It said “everyone should be troubled” by the removal not on ideological grounds, but because of alleged secrecy surrounding the decision.
“This removal completely lacks basic government transparency,” the group said in a statement Monday morning. “The whole process has been flawed since the beginning, and this secretive removal under the cloak of darkness, outside of the public bid, masked contractors, and using unidentified money wreaks of atrocious government.”
In addition to the Liberty Monument, three statues of Confederate leaders — Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis — will be removed in the coming weeks. The city plans to store and preserve them until an “appropriate” place to display them is determined, Landrieu said.
“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.”
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