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NOLA Continues Take Down of Confederate Monuments

Two down, two to go. Early Thursday morning, the City of New Orleans removed the controversial Jefferson Davis monument from its location in Mid-City at the intersection of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway. It was the second take down in a series of four monuments honoring the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” that Mayor Mitch Landrieu has pledged to remove from the city’s landscape, following the dismantling of the Battle of Liberty Place monument late last month. 


The monuments have been the source of controversy in New Orleans for months — leading to citywide defacements and vandalism, arrests of mayoral hopefuls, and public indictments against city departments and their leaders


“Three weeks ago, we began a challenging but long overdue process of removing four statues that honor the ‘Lost Cause of the Confederacy.’ Today we continue the mission,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a statement.


The Jefferson Davis monument, before Thursday located prominently in Mid-City, was installed in 1911 to commemorate the former president of the Confederacy. 


No stranger to controversy: Jefferson Davis Monument graffitied in 2004. Image by Bart Everson.



The remaining monuments set to be removed under Landrieu’s watch include the P.G.T. Beauregard statue at the entrance of City Park on Esplanade Avenue and the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle. 


NoDef was on scene during the Take Em Down NOLA march on Sunday (5.7), a pro-removal protest that culminated in a confrontation with monument supporters at Lee Circle. Sunday’s protest — which some referred to as the second Battle of New Orleans — exemplified perhaps more than ever that this issue is not exclusive to the city alone. The discussion over the monuments’ removal has become a symbolic argument throughout the country.



The Take Em Down NOLA protest marched through the French Quarter. Images by NoDef. 



Over 700 demonstrators took part in Sunday’s protests, according to the NOPD. Many demonstrators had traveled from across the country to stand for their respective side. As one protester told NoDef, an individual’s stance on the issue is emblematic of their personal and political ideals. "This is about each person making a choice between honoring the past or honoring what we can do in the future,” 48-year-old New Orleans resident Kenneth, who chose to refrain from using his surname, stated to NoDef. 


Many other protesters, primarily those in support of the monuments, found the logic offered in defense of the citywide removals confounding. 


Trey Brennon, a 27-year-old man donning a Saints hat to shield his face from the sun, was just one of the monument supporters at Lee Circle on Sunday. He described himself as a preservationist — not a pro-Confederate. For Brennon, in a city where Airbnbs lead to claims of gentrification and cultural destruction, he does not understand how proponents of the monuments removal cannot see the parallels. “Those same people [who oppose Airbnbs] say we’re racists for not wanting our city to be stripped of our history,” he said. 


These two hotly contested issues in New Orleans as of late — the rise of Airbnbs and the removal of the monuments — reflect the delicate balance that the city must hold between preserving its rich cultural heritage and making space for continued growth and development. 


Following Sunday’s march, it seems increasingly inevitable that Landrieu will ensure the monuments are removed from the city’s landscape before he leaves office this fall. The monuments will first be moved to storage, after which the City will attempt to place the statues in a museum or other facility.


“These monuments have stood not as historic or educational markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in celebration of it,” said Landrieu. "I believe we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it. 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. We should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past.”

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