Second Confederate Monument Removed In New Orleans

May 12, 2017
Originally published on May 12, 2017 7:22 am

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The city of New Orleans is changing, not the core of what the place is but the story it tells about itself. Yesterday morning, before dawn, the city removed a monument dedicated to Jefferson Davis. It's the second statue to come down since the New Orleans City Council approved the removal of four Confederate monuments. Laine Kaplan-Levenson from member station WWNO gives us a look at where the city goes from here.

LAINE KAPLAN-LEVENSON, BYLINE: With a heavy police presence, workers removed the monument in the middle of the night. They'd gotten death threats, so they had on masks as they took down the monument honoring Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president. A crowd of onlookers cheered as the statue swung in the air from a large crane.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Hey, hey - ho, ho - white supremacy's got to go.

KAPLAN-LEVENSON: But dozens were there in protest. Alan Branch came from Oklahoma two weeks ago to defend the Jefferson Davis statue. He says he and his group, many wearing bulletproof vests and waving Confederate flags, aren't giving up just yet.

ALAN BRANCH: Because there's still Beauregard and Colonel Lee. I don't know if we'll move to them or what we'll doing next.

KAPLAN-LEVENSON: P.G.T. Beauregard and General Robert E. Lee are the two remaining Confederate monuments the city plans to remove. New Orleans and other Southern cities decided to take down Confederate monuments after the racially motivated shootings in 2015 at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C. In New Orleans, tensions had escalated since the first monument was removed three weeks ago.

MITCH LANDRIEU: They're all going to come down sooner rather than later.

KAPLAN-LEVENSON: Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the monuments will immediately go into storage while the city determines how to give them new context.

LANDRIEU: Those monuments should be put in a place where they're remembered. But they should never be put on a pedestal to be revered again.

KAPLAN-LEVENSON: Landrieu says he can already imagine what might replace Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee - maybe a large fountain, he says.

LANDRIEU: You know, New Orleans is a place that lives and dies by water, you know. So the idea of a spectacular fountain that has in it public works of art that reflect the totality of our history is something that I think is interesting to a lot of people.

KAPLAN-LEVENSON: Earlier this week, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against the removal of the P.G.T. Beauregard monument. The group that sued is deciding whether to appeal, even as the city pledges to remove the final two monuments shortly.

For NPR News, I'm Laine Kaplan-Levenson in New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.