Mayor: Statue removal will allow city to heal

Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a passionate defense Friday (May 19) of the removal of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans, saying the statues were erected as symbols of white supremacy and the city can now right that wrong for future generations.

A worker in protective gear takes down an Army National Guard flag from the statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard during the statue’s removal from the entrance to City Park in New Orleans, Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

The following is a statement from the Monumental Task Committee on the removal of the statue of P.G.T. Beauregard.

Landrieu says he listened to people who were opposed to the monuments – in particular, a black mother who wondered what she should tell her little girl when she asked why Robert E. Lee is towering above them.

“It’s not good to continue to revere a false version of history and put the Confederacy on a pedestal”, Landrieu, who is white, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Landrieu made the statement hours before the City began removing one of the most famous monuments, a statue of General Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle. Usually, in New Orleans, we’re really sad when we see a family restaurant of 50 years go. The city has not given a time frame for Lee’s removal due to “intimidation, threats, and violence, serious safety concerns remain”.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu first proposed the removal of Confederate monuments in 2015, and the city council approved the decision previous year. Only nonprofits and government entities will be allowed to take part, and the city said the process will not include the Beauregard statue because of legal issues. Three depict individuals deeply influential within the Confederacy, and the fourth honors an insurrection of mostly Confederate veterans who battled against the City’s racially integrated police and state militia.

But backlash has been building against removing Confederate monuments. On Sunday morning, with protections of snipers, masked workers and a dumbstruck audience, the worst of all of the monuments was cut and carried., the Liberty Monument. In 1989, construction on Canal Street forced the removal of the monument, but it was relocated to its past location on Iberville Street in 1993. It was commissioned by the Jefferson Davis Memorial Association.

City officials say the monuments don’t “appropriately reflect the values of diversity and inclusion that make New Orleans strong today”. Across a bayou from where the monument stands, some observers sat in lawn chairs to watch the proceedings, and a brass band celebrating the monument’s removal showed up after midnight, news outlets reported.

Beauregard commanded the attack at Fort Sumter, SC, that marked the outbreak of the Civil War.

Crews laboring under the glare of floodlights began what appeared to be the work of sawing the bottom of the 14-foot-tall statue – a bronze likeness of Beauregard on horseback – from its pedestal while some 200 bystanders looked on near the entrance of City Park.