New Orleans removed the first of four designated Confederate monuments Monday as workers toiled in the dark of night to bring down the Liberty Monument, which honors a white supremacist group that attempted to overthrow the city’s Reconstruction-era biracial government, NBC News reports. The workers arrived at the site at around 1:25 a.m. in the hopes of avoiding protests from the monuments’ supporters, who have even made death threats toward those working to take down the city’s most glaring Confederate symbols.
“The monuments are an aberration,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “They’re actually a denial of our history and they were done in a time when people who still controlled the Confederacy were in charge of this city and it only represents a four-year period in our 1,000-year march to where we are today.”
The city also plans to remove statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis. Landrieu called the Liberty Monument “the most offensive of the four.”
I know people will say, and not just neo-Confederates, that these are history and shouldn’t be torn down. But let’s be clear. New Orleans is a black city and was a black city in the 1890s. These monuments, among them some of the most imposing Confederate monuments erected, were placed there an overt symbol of post-Reconstruction white power. They were intended to intimidate African-Americans into submission. They are an insult to every African-American in New Orleans. We need to remember history, but we are not obligated to leave the public monuments of our racist ancestors there because of some vague appreciation of the past. These things are living, breathing symbols of white supremacy and they need to go. That this is happening in 2017 is all the more important.