A crane removed the final homage to white supremacy in New Orleans on Friday when the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed, the last of four Confederate monuments to go down.
The statue of the general stood atop Lee Circle, a vaunted roundabout in the Crescent City. Since 1884, Lee had stood in a place of prominence at the apex of a multistory, white stone column facing north, allowing Lee to keep a watchful eye on “the enemy.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu marked the moment with a speech that put the statues in their proper historical perspective, the Washington Post reports, as homages to hate for black people—not a symbol of Southern pride and “heritage.”
“They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for,” Landrieu said, noting that Lee and the Confederate army fought against the United States. “They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.”
The New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 to remove the monument and three other Confederate and white supremacist monuments in December 2015, just months after a white supremacist gunman with a penchant for Confederate flags walked into a Charleston, S.C., church and gunned down nine innocent black people.
An obelisk honoring the militia known as the White League was taken down in April; a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was removed May 11; and a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was taken down Wednesday.
The sites of all four monuments have been sites of heated contest, with 24-hour vigils held by so-called patriots on one side, flanked with guns and Confederate flags. On the other side were those who were happy to see the statues go, holding African liberation flags and signs saying good riddance to white supremacy.
With the exception of Lee, the monuments were taken down in the darkness of night, to avoid physical confrontation with the workers involved in their removal. Since the beginning of the process, city officials, activists, contractors and work crews have been threatened and harassed. The Post reports that a contractor involved pulled out of the job after an arsonist set his $200,000 Lamborghini ablaze.
New Orleans says that it will store the four Confederate monuments at an undisclosed location, and city officials announced late Thursday that an unspecified water feature will replace “the General Lee.”
Read more at the Washington Post.