Jefferson Davis Statue to Be Removed Today, Subsequent Removals of Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard Monuments
NEW ORLEANS – After nearly two years of planning and court battles, City officials began the process today of removing the three remaining monuments that prominently celebrate the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” The statues that are 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.
There are four prominent monuments in question. The Battle of Liberty Place monument, which was removed three 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 statue coming down today is the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway. The statues slated to come down next include the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle and the P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue on Esplanade Avenue at the entrance to City Park.
“Three weeks ago, we began a challenging but long overdue process of removing four statues that honor the ‘Lost Cause of the Confederacy.’ Today we continue the mission,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “These monuments have stood not as historic or educational markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in celebration of it. I believe we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it. To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in some of our most prominent public places is not only an inaccurate reflection of our past, it is an affront to our present, and a bad prescription for our future. We should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past.”
TRAFFIC ADVISORY: Jefferson Davis Parkway
The process to remove the Jefferson Davis statue located at the intersection of Jefferson Davis Parkway and Canal Street has begun. The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) are 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.
In order to allow the City’s contractors to safely conduct the work, Jefferson Davis Parkway between Cleveland Avenue and Iberville Street and Canal Street between N. Rendon Street and S. Clark Street will be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The removal is expected to be completed today.
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 for illegal parking, including blocking hydrants, driveways and sidewalks, or parking 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.
Due to the widely known intimidation, threats, and violence, serious safety concerns remain. Therefore, the City will not share details on a removal timeline for the Robert E. Lee and P.G.T Beauregard statues.
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 Jefferson Davis statue will be followed by the Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard monuments.
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 yesterday, Civil District Court Kern Reese denied a third request for preliminary injunction specifically confirming City’s right to move Beauregard.
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.”