PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
A monument fo P.G.T. Beauregard is removed early May 17.
The peripheral block party scene at Confederate-era monument removals and demonstrations has become a nearly-weekly ritual. During the seven-hour stretch from when removal crews arrived and when a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was lifted from its pedestal outside City Park, people kayaked on Bayou St. John to get a closer look, pulled up beach chairs along the water, popped Champagne, brought beer and coolers, and then a brass band showed up.
The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) separated the crowd with a series of barricades at Moss Street and Esplanade Avenue facing Beauregard. Barricades stretched from across the bridge down Esplanade in front of the Shell gas station on Moss, with more around City Park, stretching across Carrollton Avenue. On one side of Esplanade were a couple dozen monument supporters, who draped Confederate flags over the barricades and waved several others, including a half-Stars and Stripes and half-Confederate flag, a flag that said "President Trump," and two flags symbolizing the 3 Percenters. Supporters chanted "where's Mitch?"
A saw cut into the statue's base where it meets the pedestal as crews hovered above in cherry pickers to strap Beauregard to a crane using yellow straps.
Among people in the crowd: musicians Terrence Blanchard and Nicholas Payton, as well as Angela Kinlaw, Michael "Quess" Moore and Malcolm Suber with Take 'Em Down NOLA.
PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
A brass band arrived on the anti-monument side of spectators and chanted "take them down."
Beauregard's monument recognizes a man with a long history in New Orleans and Louisiana whose post-Civil War career diverted from his commitment to the Lost Cause. Yet his statue — a massive, 20-foot-tall, 14,000-pound bronze figure towering above the roundabout — depicts the man in his Confederate uniform, and the pedestal recognizes "GENERAL C.S.A., 1861-1865."
The monument was at the center of one last legal challenge from monument supporters who claimed City Park — not the city — has ownership of the monument. One day after clashing demonstrations at Lee Circle, monument supporters rallied at outside City Park on May 8 to support Richard Marksbury's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the city from removing the monument. Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese denied the request later that day, and on May 10 he declined to grant Marksbury's request for a preliminary injunction. In his ruling, Reese pointed to the outcomes in other lawsuits granting the city permission to remove the statues. In a statement
, the New Orleans City Park Improvement Association said it's not aware of any evidence that it owns the monument.
"Mayor Landrieu has clearly indicated that the removal of the monument is imminent," the statement said, "and we hope it will be done safely and that all parties, while exercising their First Amendment rights, respect the laws of our city and state."
“Today we take another step in defining our City not by our past but by our bright future,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a statement sent out as crews arrived for the removal. “While we must honor our history, we will not allow the Confederacy to be put on a pedestal in the heart of New Orleans. As we near our City’s 300th anniversary, we must continue to find courage to stand up to hate and embrace justice and compassion.”
Crowds chanted "where's Mitch?" as crews arrived in a Budget rental truck followed by a crane coming from Carrollton Avenue around 8:30 p.m.
Some heated debate and shouting matches were separated by barricades, though one man who repeated "take that shit down" casually wandered into the Confederate camp to do the same.
After several hours and false starts on the statue, with crews dismantling the straps and unhooking the crane several times, the crowd traded bards, sang "Happy Birthday" to a WVUE-TV cameraman (though the Confederate group transitioned the song into "Dixie"), and, around 1 a.m., a brass band emerged from Esplanade and walked to the barricade, chanting "take them down" as a crowd swarmed around them and danced.
Three people were detained for public drunkenness and arson for burning small flags, though one woman was later released. A woman also was detained for crossing the bayou in a kayak and heading for the monument.
Crews finally lifted the statue off its pedestal just after 3 a.m., nearly seven hours after they first arrived, to loud cheers and a handful of jeers. According to Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni, the base of the statue won't be removed "at this time," though the crew removed the nameplate.
Robert E. Lee's statue at Lee Circle is the last of four Confederate-era monuments the city will move to a city-owned warehouse as it makes arrangements with museums and estates to house them.