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New Orleans removes Jefferson Davis monument

A statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis was dismantled overnight in New Orleans, the second of four Confederate monuments slated for removal by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration.


Located at the intersection of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway in the Mid-City neighborhood, the eight-foot statue had been in place atop a 12-foot pedestal since 1911. The city has no current plans to rename the street.

Amid both pro- and anti-removal demonstrators and a heavy police presence, crews arrived at the monument shortly after 3:00 a.m and removed the statue from its base shortly after 5:00 a.m.

New Orleans’ Jefferson Davis monument was defaced in 2004 with the words “Slave Owner.” (Bart Everson/Special to The Pulse)

Landrieu in 2015 announced plans to remove four Confederate monuments from public spaces: the Jefferson Davis statue; an equestrian statue of Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard located near City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art; a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, a prominent roundabout; and the “Battle of Liberty Place” monument, which commemorated a white supremacist uprising against the city’s racially-integrated Reconstruction government following the Civil War.

City council members approved the removal plan in December 2015, and after more than a year of court battles, removal began last month as workers removed the Liberty Place monument.

“Three weeks ago, we began a challenging but long overdue process of removing four statues that honor the Lost Cause of the Confederacy,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “Today we continue the mission. These monuments have stood not as historic or educational markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in celebration of it. I believe we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it.”

Landrieu’s office said Thursday that the city would not share details on a removal timeline for the Beauregard and Lee monuments, citing serious safety concerns posed by “widely-known intimidation, threats, and violence.”

“To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in some of our most prominent public places is not only an inaccurate reflection of our past, it is an affront to our present, and a bad prescription for our future,” Landrieu added. “We should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past.”

Removal of the monuments is being funded by private sources, though city officials have declined to identify them. Once removed, the monuments will be placed in storage until their ultimate disposition — including potential donation to a museum or private organization — is decided.

Crews remove New Orleans’ Liberty Place monument in April 2017. (City of New Orleans/Special to The Pulse)

While efforts to remove Confederate monuments haven’t yet reached most of the Gulf Coast, New Orleans isn’t the first Southern city to take such steps. The University of Texas at Austin removed a statue of Jefferson Davis in 2015, and officials in Lousiville, Ky. removed a Confederate monument late last year. Many city and state governments — including Pensacola — have removed Confederate flag displays in recent years. Other cities’ plans to remove monuments, including those in Memphis, Tenn. and Birmingham, Ala. have been thwarted by state officials.

Pensacola’s Confederate monument in Lee Square was defaced in 2015, with vandals spraypainting “Confed lives don’t matter” spraypainted across the granite pillar. The Pensacola City Council in 2000 adopted a policy requiring a city council vote before any historic monument could be removed, but that policy isn’t codified in an ordinance and likely wouldn’t prevent a mayor from acting unilaterally, as Mayor Ashton Hayward did earlier in 2015 by removing Confederate flags from the city’s “Five Flags” display.

City of Pensacola spokesman Vernon Stewart said last month that while city officials are aware of the developments in New Orleans, there have been “no discussions or plans” regarding Pensacola’s monuments.