Despite numerous protests for and against the city’s controversial decision, the removal of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans is complete. Late Friday afternoon, construction workers finished the final steps of taking down the statue of General Robert E. Lee as hundreds of people stood and watched the momentous event.
The New Orleans Confederate monument in the image of General Lee looking north with arms crossed stood watching over the city for over a century. The removal of this prominent Civil War figure is the last of four monuments slated to be relocated to a museum.
Made of bronze measuring nearly 20 feet tall, the New Orleans Confederate statue of Lee stood atop a base 60 feet high overseeing Lee’s Circle, a major traffic exchange in New Orleans, Louisiana. The monument was a familiar landmark for both locals and tourists since 1884. The city plans to keep the pedestal in place and use it to create a new, less provocative marker.
As the last Civil War-era monument was slowly removed from its pedestal, cheers from the crowd erupted. Many bystanders took out their cell phones and recorded the historic occasion, while others hugged and congratulated each other.
Initially suggested by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu after nine African-Americans were killed inside a South Carolina church, the city approved a proposal to remove the Confederate monuments in 2015. After two years of planning, impassioned debates, and various court rulings, construction workers finally began dismantling the city’s Civil War memorials one month ago.
Prior to the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, monuments commemorating Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard were taken down almost two weeks ago. On April 24, under the cover of darkness, contractors wearing bullet-proof vests removed an obelisk that symbolized an 1874 white supremacist rebellion.
“These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history,” said Mayor Landrieu, as reported by U.S. News & World Report. “These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for.”
While the city of New Orleans completed the final removal of Confederate monuments located throughout the city, the state of Alabama wants to make sure theirs remain permanent. Also on Friday, state lawmakers passed legislation prohibiting “the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument” that is at least 40-years-old. This protection includes any memorials or other public property associated with the Confederacy.
As expected, the proposed law met with both support and criticism. Some argue the bill preserves monuments and other historically relevant memorials, while at the same time serving as a reminder of our past, whether good or bad. In contrast, opponents of the bill say it extends protection to Confederate-era monuments that celebrate a dark blemish on America’s legacy.
“You say we are protecting history. We are not protecting history,” said Sen. Hank Sanders, as cited by the Chicago Tribune. “We are protecting monuments that represent oppression to a large part of the people in the state of Alabama.”
After several revisions, the state’s House approved the monument protection legislation in a 68-29 vote. Now, the Alabama bill moves to Governor Kay Ivey for review and signature.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana legislature is contemplating a state measure of its own. Under the bill’s current language, local governments can authorize the removal of any memorials, including Confederate monuments, if a special election is held and voters approve the action.
New Orleans removing Confederate monuments is only part of a larger movement sweeping parts of the South that are desperately trying to distance themselves from any connection to the Civil War. Even with the threat of potentially violent demonstrations promised by various pro-Civil War monument groups, the city of Charlottesville, Virginia plans to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee sometime in the near future.
[Featured Image by Gerald Herbert/AP Images]