May 112017

More than 100 people – both for and against the monument – gathered to watch its removal early Thursday. Crews lifted the bronze statue with a crane (Claire Byun).

By Claire Byun

Nineteen days after protestors held a vigil at Mid-City’s Jefferson Davis monument, the bronze statue was removed.

More than 100 monument supporters and counter-protestors stood guard early Thursday (May 11) as crews removed the century-old statue from the corner of Jefferson Davis Parkway and Canal Street. A small group of monument supporters had gathered in front of the statue since April 23, when the New Orleans Monument Task Committee held a candlelight vigil to show support.

Crews removed the White League memorial at Liberty Place that night, which prompted a wrap people–many from out of town–to camp out in front of the monuments. Erin Hergert, who lives in New Orleans, said Jeff Davis’ removal was a somber occasion.

“This is New Orleans, it’s our history,” Hebert said. “It’s heartbreaking to see these come down.”

Protestors were corralled facing each other on the neutral ground of Jefferson Davis Parkway, across from the statue (Claire Byun).

Hergert was one of about 50 people who gathered along Jeff Davis Parkway early Thursday after rumors of the monument’s removal spread.

A larger group of counter protestors, some from Take ‘Em Down NOLA, lined the neutral ground across from the monument on Canal Street. Allison Hunt, who lives in Mid-City, said she’s surprised it “took so long” to remove the Confederate president’s monument.

“It’s representation of us rejecting those values finally,” Hunt said.

Rumors had been swirling for days that the city would remove the monument, especially after a tense counter-protest last week led police to barricade the neutral ground around the statue. Police brought in extra barricades Wednesday afternoon, and parents at Morris Jeff Community School were told by administrators that NOPD would be removing the statue after midnight.

Tow trucks and flood lights pulled up to the monument Thursday around 2 a.m., where large groups of supporters and protestors were still gathered. Police barricaded the entire intersection around 3 a.m., shuffling protestors, monument supporters and the media into metal corrals.

Both parties watched while crews slowly dismantled the statue.

“I didn’t think this would happen tonight,” said monument supporter Cleo Jenkins. “It’s very somber.”

Jenkins said she’s not sure if she’ll stand guard at the remaining two Confederate monuments, but does want to show support to her cause. She’s planning to stick with a large group either way.

A big crane was used to remove the bronze statue from its podium (Claire Byun).

“You never know what to expect,” Jenkins said.

Most people in either party made a point to explain why they’re standing their ground at 3 a.m. on a weekday. But Harley Chaz, New Orleans resident, said he doesn’t have s stake in either side. As an artist, Chaz said he appreciates the artistic value of the statues–especially given their age.

However, the hatred associated with the statues is the main reason Chaz said he understands the removal.

“Removing them isn’t going to change anything; it’s not going to solve our problems,” he said. “But if this many people are upset over them, I understand.”

Crews wrapped the bronzed Jefferson Davis in green bubble wrap and harnessed it to a crane. The actual statue didn’t get lifted from its concrete base until just after 5 a.m. A large number of monument supporters left almost immediately after the statue was removed, and anti-monument protestors trickled out little by little.

The dates and times of removal of the other two monuments–General Robert E. Lee and P.T. Beauregard–will be kept secret, according to a press release from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office.

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