NEW ORLEANS – Tomorrow, City officials will continue the process to remove the last remaining monument that prominently celebrates the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” The statues being removed were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the “Cult of the Lost Cause,” a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy. Mayor Landrieu is expected to make remarks tomorrowafternoon.
There are four prominent monuments in question. The Battle of Liberty Place monument, which was removed nearly four weeks ago, was erected by the Crescent City White League to remember the deadly insurrection led by white supremacists against the City’s racially integrated police department and government. The Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway was removed last week. The P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue on Esplanade Avenue at the entrance to City Park was removed earlier this week. The statue coming down tomorrow is the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle.
The process to remove the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle is expected to begin between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday, May 19. The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) will be present to ensure public safety. The public is encouraged to be safe, patient and prepared for disruptions to vehicular and pedestrian access to streets in surrounding areas.
Beginning 4 a.m. on Friday, May 19, several streets around the area of Lee Circle will be closed to thru traffic. Road closures will be set at the following intersections: Calliope and Carondelet, St. Charles and Calliope, Howard and Carondelet, St. Joseph and St. Charles, and Camp St. and Andrew Higgins Drive. Normal traffic will resume by 5 p.m. on Friday, May 19.
To protect the safety of the public, including protesters on both sides and the public’s property, the NOPD will be closing streets to vehicular traffic within a one-block radius of Lee Circle immediately before and during the removal process.
Citizens have a right to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful protest. We understand there are strong emotions surrounding this subject, and we ask that the public remain peaceful and respectful while demonstrating. Out of an abundance of caution, the City’s Office of Homeland Security and the NOPD have taken extraordinary security measures and dedicated the necessary public safety resources to maintain law and order while protecting workers and all people exercising their right to peacefully protest.
NOPD is well trained to use the highest standards to protect people and property while ensuring the law is followed and is prepared to take necessary actions to ensure public safety. As a reminder, vandalism of any public property is strictly prohibited.
Parking enforcement personnel will be monitoring illegal parking, including blocked hydrants, driveways and sidewalks, or cars parked within 20 feet of a crosswalk, intersection or stop signs. Motorists are also reminded to park in the direction of travel on one-way streets and with the right wheel to the curb on two-way streets.
In addition, RTA services, including bus service, may be interrupted during this event. Details on any route changes are available at www.norta.com.
In December 2015, Mayor Landrieu signed an ordinance calling for the removal and relocation of the four prominent Confederate monuments displayed publicly in the City of New Orleans, citing that these statues did not reflect the diversity, values or full history of the City and should be removed. 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.
The City is in the process of determining a more appropriate place to display the statues post-removal, such as a museum or other site, where they can be placed in their proper historical context from a dark period of American history. They will be crated and stored during this process.
The removal of the statues follows a final decision on March 8, 2017 by the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana affirming the City’s legal right to remove the statue. Just last week, Civil District Court Kern Reese denied a third request for preliminary injunction specifically confirming City’s right to move the Beauregard statue.
WHERE THE MONUMENTS ARE GOING
The City has been in the process of determining a more appropriate place to display the statues post-removal, such as a museum or other site, where they can be placed in their proper historical context from a dark period of American history. The statues are in the process of being crated and are being stored in City-owned warehouses or secure facilities.
Now, as offers to take individual monuments have come in from both public and private institutions, the City has decided that a competitive RFP process will facilitate the open and transparent selection of where they ultimately go and how they can be presented as educational tools with historical context.
Only nonprofit and governmental entities will be eligible to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement to host the statues. The RFP process will be used for the Battle of Liberty Place statue, the Jefferson Davis statue, and the Robert E. Lee statue.
Proposals will be able to be submitted for statues individually or as a group. All proposals must state how they will place the statues in context, both in terms of why they were first erected and why the City chose to remove them in 2015.
The statues will not be able to be displayed outdoors on public property in Orleans Parish.
The RFP is expected to be released in the coming weeks, with proposals due this summer. A public selection committee made up of City officials will make a recommendation for entities to receive and display the statues, with approval by the City Council.
Due to the complexity of the legal issues surrounding the property on which the PGT Beauregard monument was situated, the City and the City Park Improvement Association will continue to have good-faith discussions regarding that property; the statue will be considered separately based on the result of those discussions.
WHAT IS GOING IN THEIR PLACE
The area that formerly housed the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway will be replaced by an American flag. The area that formerly housed the Battle of Liberty Place monument will remain as is.
The City Park Improvement Association will also take a leading role in determining what replaces the Beauregard monument at the entrance to City Park, in partnership with the City and other civic groups. The remaining part of the base will be removed in due course.
As previously detailed, the City plans to leave the column that houses the Robert E. Lee statue intact. The City will also be undertaking public infrastructure improvements to include a water feature at the circle. The circle will be able to incorporate public art. The City has begun the process to design the public infrastructure improvements to be ready for the public art.
The goal is to complete the sites during the City’s tricentennial year in 2018.
HISTORY OF THE STATUES AND THE “LOST CAUSE OF THE CONFEDERACY”
The four Confederate monuments in New Orleans were erected between 1884 and 1915, after Reconstruction and during the era of Jim Crow laws. Three depict individuals deeply influential within the Confederacy, and the fourth honors an insurrection of mostly Confederate veterans who battled against the City’s racially integrated police and state militia.
The Robert E. Lee, the Jefferson Davis, and the P.G.T. Beauregard monuments were erected to promote “The Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” Emerging at the end of the Civil War, “The Lost Cause” was known for espousing a number of principles, including that the war was fought over states’ rights and not slavery, that slavery was a benevolent institution that offered Christianity to African “savages”, and that the war was a just cause in the eyes of God.
The Battle of Liberty Place monument on Iberville Street, was erected in 1891 (originally on Canal Street) in honor of the Battle of Liberty Place, an 1874 insurrection of the Crescent City White League, a group of all white, mostly Confederate veterans, who battled against the City’s racially integrated police and state militia. The monument was meant to honor the members of the White League who died during the battle. In 1932, the City added a plaque to the monument, which stated that the statue commemorated the “overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers…and the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” In 1989, construction on Canal Street forced the removal of the monument, but it was relocated to its past location on Iberville Street in 1993. At that time, the 1932 white supremacist plaque was covered with a new slab of granite honoring “those Americans on both sides of the conflict who died.”
The Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway, was erected in 1911 in honor of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. It was commissioned by the Jefferson Davis Memorial Association.
The Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle was erected in 1884 in honor of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General for the Army of Northern Virginia, at the site formerly known as “Tivoli Circle.” Despite the fact that Lee has no significant ties to New Orleans, this monument was commissioned by The Robert E. Lee Monumental Association of New Orleans.
The P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue on Esplanade Avenue at the entrance to City Park, was erected in 1915 in honor of Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, a General of the Confederate army who led the attack on Fort Sumter, which marked the beginning of the Civil War. The Beauregard National Register of Historic Places nomination says that “the General Beauregard Equestrian Statue…is one of three major Louisiana monuments representing what is known by historians as the “Cult of the Lost Cause.” Statues of this type are tangible symbols of a state of mind which was powerful and pervasive throughout the South well into the twentieth century and some would say even today.”