By Claire Byun
Days after the Jefferson Davis monument was removed, a second Mid-City monument was dismantled over seven hours early Wednesday morning.
About 200 people gathered near the P.G.T. Beauregard monument near City Park late Tuesday as crews removed the seven-ton bronze statue from its marble base. Pro-monument groups were separated from monument protestors with metal barricades – similar to the setup at Jefferson Davis – and with occasional yelling matches between the groups.
Crews set up barricades in the early evening to block off the traffic circle near the New Orleans Museum of Art, but work on the monument didn’t start until about 9 p.m. Crews wrapped the statue in green bubble wrap and secured it with harnesses before lifting up the 102-year-old memorial a little after 3 a.m.
“We shouldn’t be intimidated by these out-of-towners who come here to scare the residents and police,” said Take Em Down NOLA member Belva Kelly. “We should be celebrating.”
Kelly live streamed the takedown on Facebook to supporters who couldn’t be there in person. She said many people have been working for decades to remove symbols of white supremacy from the city, so Tuesday night was an ordeal.
She also said it’s important for average, everyday New Orleanians to show their support for the removal to contradict those protestors on the other side.
“This is a really important moment for a lot of people,” she said.
As for Melvin Schneider, Tuesday was more somber. He spent the night holding an American flag at the blocked-off portion of Carrollton and City Park avenues to show his unending support for the history of New Orleans.
Schneider said he lack of public comment – and lack of a public vote outside of City Council – made the whole endeavor “wrong.” The fact that the monuments don’t have a final destination so far also added to his worries.
Unlike Jefferson Davis or the Liberty at White Place obelisk, P.G.T. Beauregard’s removal hits home for Schneider.
“He was one of us,” he said. “He’s from Louisiana, he played an integral role in the Civil War and served the city afterward.”
The exact dates and times of the remaining two statues – Beauregard and General Robert E. Lee in the Central Business District – had remained a secret. But after the New Orleans Police Department was seen putting up barricades around the monument, word quickly spread and the crowd of protestors grew to about 200 people at its peak.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu released a statement late Tuesday celebrating the monument’s removal. Landrieu refers to the monuments as symbols of the “Cult of the Lost Cause” of the Confederacy, which were erected years after the Civil War.
“While we must honor our history, we will not allow the Confederacy to be put on a pedestal in the heart of New Orleans,” Landrieu said in the release.
Crowds on both sides thinned early Wednesday as crews wrapped and unwrapped the monument several times. Monument supporters sang “God Bless America” and the national anthem to drown out chants from the anti-monument group, in between bickering. Around 1:15 a.m., an assorted brass band marched down Esplanade Avenue toward the monument and serenaded protestors for a few minutes.
The band played renditions of “Saints Go Marching In” and melodies around the chant “take ’em down.” Most people on the anti-monument side dances and sang along to the band, while those on the other side remained stoic.
Three people – two women and one man – were detained and will be charged with public drunkenness, police said. One of those detained will also be charged with municipal arson after attempting to burn a flag.
The final monument, Robert E. Lee, remains.