Crews in New Orleans on Friday used a crane to lift a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee off its pedestal as the city removed the last of four monuments its leaders see as racially offensive. When the rest of the monument is brought down, it will be the fourth such historical marker removed since late April.
The monuments sat at the entrance to the city's largest park, on a vaunted greenway, in a major traffic circle in one of this city's squares.
The statue slated to come down next is the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle. After Roof's capture, state lawmakers voted to move the Confederate battle flag that once flew on statehouse grounds to a museum. "Today is a sign that we are forcing New Orleans to have a conversation about race and economics and politics that has honestly not happened here in the city before". Some proclaimed the importance of preserving "heritage", others said the Lee statue was a celebration of slavery.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is expected to give a speech marking the removal of the last of the four monuments on Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, New Orleans' monument became bogged down in litigation, and the city struggled to find contractors courageous enough to risk backlash to move its monuments.
The statue of Lee, who commanded Confederate armies fighting the United States in the Civil War, will be taken down from atop a 60-foot (18 meters)-high pedestal where it was been since 1884. But protesters defiantly opposed to removal were few as the work wore on for hours Friday though some shouted out against the removal.
Landrieu addressed the city and select patrons at Gallier Hall about the end of the removal of the four monuments that included monuments to The Battle of Liberty Place, the Jefferson Davis Memorial and the monument to P.G.T. Beauregard.
In what the Times-Picayune reported as "a passionate defense" of the removal of the Confederate statues, Landrieu said the Confederacy was "on the wrong side of humanity".
It's important, he added, that taking down the statues isn't just a "cosmetic fix". Crews also took down a monument memorializing a deadly white supremacist uprising in 1874. The process started around 7 a.m. and the statue still hadn't been removed as of 3 p.m.
One man who circumvented the barricades and went atop the statue steps to celebrate the impending removal was arrested after police tried several times to get him to step down quietly. Those submitting proposals to take statues must explain how they will "place the statues in context both in terms of why they were first erected and why the city chose to remove them in 2015", the city said. Contractors involved in the removal process have been threatened; statue supporters sued repeatedly to keep the statues up.
As for what will happen to the statues, The Associated Press reports the city is soliciting proposals from nonprofit and government entities and has so far gotten offers from various public and private institutions. But Frank Varela Jr., a New Orleans native carrying an American flag, said he thought Lee should stay up as "a part of the South".
The city said those taking the statues can not display them outdoors on public property in New Orleans.
Seriously, Mitch? So, people are literally fleeing the city because of Confederate monuments? The local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the city in an effort to block the plan, and in March a U.S. Court of Appeals found in favor of the city, clearing the path for removal.
According to the city, Lee's statue will be replaced by a water feature and public art, while a US flag will be placed at the site of the Davis statue.