New Orleans will remove a statue on Friday of Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee, the last of four monuments the city is taking down because they have been deemed racially offensive, officials said.
About two weeks later, the statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis at the intersection of Jefferson Davis Parkway and Canal Street was taken down in the dark morning hours of May 11.
The statue of Lee, who commanded Confederate armies against the Union in the Civil War, was the most prominent of the four statues, his bronze figure standing almost 20 feet (6 meters) tall in uniform, arms crossed defiantly, gazing northward.
Historians, in the past, have said that the opposite is true of New Orleans, however, arguing that the city attracts tourists and residents because of its rich history and public museum-like displays.
The last remaining monument, a statue to Gen. Robert E. Lee, is set to be removed at an undetermined date in the near future. That recharged the debate over whether Confederate emblems represent racism or an honorable heritage. Earlier removals happened after nightfall, a precautionary measure due to security concerns for contractors and workers involved in the effort.
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While many were supportive of removal, opinions varied widely in the crowd. The monument, an estimated 18 feet tall, had a bronze likeness of Davis standing astride a tall stone pedestal. "Ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for".
The city plans to leave the column at Lee's Circle intact and will mount public art in its place.
Unlike the first three statues, city officials plan to take Lee's statue down during the day. "We as a nation are far enough from this that we ought to acknowledge that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of history". Just last week, Civil District Court Kern Reese denied a third request for preliminary injunction specifically confirming City's right to move Beauregard. The Monumental Task Committee, a pro-monument group in New Orleans, maintains that the Improvement Association, and not the city, owns the land and therefore the monument.
During a Special Meeting of the New Orleans City Council, members of the City Council voted 6-1 in support of Ordinance Calendar No. 31,082, which declared that the four Confederate monuments are nuisances pursuant to Section 146-611 of the Code of the City of New Orleans and should be removed from their prominent locations in New Orleans. 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.
Edwards, a Democrat, attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, just like some of the Confederate soldiers depicted in the statues. They also can not be displayed outdoors on public property within the city.
The city wants to finish the work during its tricentennial year in 2018.