It was announced Monday morning that workers in New Orleans had taken down one of the four prominent Confederate monuments peppered throughout the city, with the remaining three statues also scheduled to be removed shortly. The gesture adds New Orleans to the ever-increasing list of Southern communities who, amidst current rising socio-political tensions, have made efforts to proactively detach themselves from what many see as symbols and shrines glamourizing a history of white supremacy and violent racism.The first of the monuments to come down was the Liberty Place monument, a statue erected in 1891 which honors the Crescent City White League. The Crescent City White League is remembered as a group of white people who pursued efforts to block and even overthrow the increasing level of racial desegregation in the political restructuring of post-Civil War New Orleans, making the statue (which positively portrays the group specifically for these efforts) a notable stand out when it comes to implication-based controversy.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been incredibly adamant in his opposition to the structures. Landrieu, who has now enjoyed two mayoral election victories with overwhelming support from the majority-Black city's Black residential population, was the one to initially propose the removal of the monuments. His suggestion was then supported in a six-to-one vote from New Orleans' majority-black city council in 2015, though legal disputes prevented any action from being taken for two years. Now that the time has finally come for the project to come to fruition, Mayor Landrieu made no effort to soften his stance in his Sunday interview with the Associated Press.
"The monuments are an aberration. 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."
The politician even made a point to specifically address why he felt a particular sense of urgency in removing the Liberty Place monument ahead of any of the other of the city's multiple Confederate monuments, calling the statue "the most offensive of the four" set to be stripped from the public eye in the near future, adding that it was philosophically built to "revere white supremacy."
"If there was ever a statue that needed to be taken down, it's that one."
While it may be popular with New Orleans' city council, Mayor Landrieu's stance has drawn a severe degree of backlash from opponents as well, a force which has now even spread to affect many of the construction workers involved in the removal project. Since its announcement, contractors hired by the city to help assist in the deconstruction of the monuments been have faced with death threats and severe harassment from opponents who claim that the statue represents a significant piece of the South's history for better or for worse and should remain preserved for this reason.
Not to be deterred, construction workers donning military-style helmets, bulletproof vests, and identity-concealing scarves began disassembling the Liberty Place monument at 1:25 a.m. on Monday in attempts to avoid midday clashes with assembled opponents of the plan, as well as in hopes of easing the traffic burden on the city's nearby residents. Police officers stood guard both nearby and watching from the rooftops of nearby buildings while contractors worked until the monument was ultimately finished being removed at 5:35 a.m.
Now that the legal restrictions preventing the removal of the Confederate monuments have been lifted, New Orleans residents and tourists can expect to see similar removals of the statues portraying Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, and the Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis in the very near future.
[Featured Image by Gerald Herbet/AP Images]