NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The company hired to take down four Confederate-era monuments walked away from the job after its employees received death threats and other businesses threatened to cancel their contracts.
The city explained the situation to a federal judge during a hearing to address a lawsuit from groups who believe that removing the monuments is illegal.
"It's a landmark decision. It's been nationwide news. It gives you an opportunity to feel like you're really participating in the process," Pia Hunter said.
The courtroom was so packed that people like Hunter, from the University of Illinois College of Law, were forced to an overflow room for the court proceedings.
"For the citizens of New Orleans and especially for those of us who are law students studying the law, it was a great experience," Hunter said.
The lawsuit was filed in December, the day after the City Council voted to have the monuments removed, declaring them public nuisances.
Neither side would comment on camera, but the plaintiffs, who are preservation groups, claimed in court that moving statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and the Battle of Liberty Place Monument, violate federal and state law. They said two of the monuments have now become part of the federally funded streetcar lines, but attorneys for the city called those claims, "a laughable notion."
"Well they needed to actually establish the facts of their argument, and I don't think that they did that. We were in the overflow room, but a couple of other students were actually in the courtroom, but they just didn't make a good case," Hunter said.
The federal judge even told the plaintiffs he was having a tough time understanding their argument. The plaintiffs went on to say that due process was not afforded to everyone, and that countless hours and several thousand dollars was spent over the years maintaining the monuments.
The judge will now have to decide whether or not to issue a restraining order in the case preventing the city from removing the monuments while the lawsuit proceeds.
In the meantime, the city pointed out that if it is allowed to begin removing the monuments, another contractor will have to be found.