Cheers and jeers were heard throughout the crowd of protesters that surrounded the Confederate-era statue of Jefferson Davis as it was taken down from its location in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 11, 2017.
Early in the morning, city officials and workers wearing masks took down the 15-foot-high statue of the only president of the Confederate States of America. The Jefferson Davis Statue, which was unveiled in 1911, was built to honor Davis’ efforts to make the Confederate States of America its own country during the Civil War.
The statue was wrapped with green wrapping and placed on a harness before being removed from its pedestal. Workers and trucks from the company hired for the job were forced to conceal their identity due to death threats made by residents that wanted the Confederate-era statue to be protected.
The workers were accompanied by a large amount of police and protesters throughout the morning. Supporters and opponents of the removal of the statue watched the process while they shouted their various opinions about the situation to each other.
Residents that supported the removal of the Jefferson Davis Statue held up signs with phrases like, “Bout Time,” while others that were against the removal held up Confederate flags and chanted “President Davis.”
Just 10 days before the Jefferson Davis Statue was removed, hundreds of angry residents gathered in front of the statue to protest against Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s decision about the removal of three Confederate-era monuments. Protesters that were against the removals came face-to-face with protesters that supported the takedown of the monuments. Both groups began to shout at each other, and policemen tried to separate them before things got out of hand.
Freshman Gavin Lawrence said, “I think it is a great idea to remove all Confederate symbols because I do not believe that such symbols respect diversity in America.”
Officers made a barrier between the two groups to prevent a physical fight from breaking out. Many protesters were even carrying guns as they marched around the statue, and others were intoxicated. Policemen ordered the crowd of protesters to step away from the Jefferson Davis Statue as they arrested four New Orleans residents for disorderly conduct.
The removal of the Jefferson Davis Statue was part of Landrieu’s decision that four Confederate-era monuments — Liberty Peace Monument, Jefferson Davis Statue, P.G.T Beauregard Statue, and General Robert E. Lee Statue — were to be taken down because the monuments are associated with white supremacy that took place in New Orleans during the 1800s.
Landrieu said, “The monuments have stood not as historic markers of slavery, but in celebration of it.”
On May 10, Civil District Court judge Kern Reese ruled that New Orleans had full permission to remove the Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard Statue from the City Park and rejected a temporary block to protect any still standing Confederate-era monuments. Two days before Reese’s decision, New Orleans resident Richard Marksbury filed a lawsuit against the city that claimed that the city had no right to remove the statue because it does not own the statue or the land where the statue is located. Reese then discovered a document from 1907 which declared that the statue was donated to New Orleans, which gave the city complete authority over it.
Freshman Gianna Fischer said, “I cannot believe that people are still defending Confederate-era monuments. I feel like people should stop using the excuse that those statues represent ‘Southern pride”
Marksbury said that he will bring his case to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court if he has to.
The Jefferson Davis Statue was not the only statue that was taken down by the city. On April 24, the Liberty Peace Monument became the first monument that was taken down from its location. This monument honored the Battle of Liberty Place, which was fought between white supremacist groups and a biracial police force in New Orleans after the civil war. Landrieu announced that the monument was removed from its place because it honored the killing of the biracial police force.
The removal of the Liberty Peace Monument and the Jefferson Davis Statue greatly angered the residents of New Orleans, which led to a handful of protests throughout the city. People who supported the removal of the monuments say that the monuments glorified racism toward African Americans. Others say that the monuments serve as a proud demonstration of Southern culture.
In 2015, Landrieu signed an order to remove the four monuments related to the Confederacy after nine African Americans were killed by a self-proclaimed white supremacist in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Unfortunately, it took two years for the city to finally act upon the order due to an outbreak of riots by residents that support America’s Confederate history.
The P.G.T. Statue and General Robert E. Lee Statue are scheduled to be removed as well at a later date. Landrieu and city officials will not be releasing the exact date when the statues’ removal will occur in order to prevent more threats toward the workers.
Why should Confederate symbols, such as the Confederate flag, be banned from American cities?