New Orleans mayor says it's time to move on from era of Confederate monuments

Rob Krieger, Meg Gatto provide team coverage from Lee Circle

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said it is time to move on.

The mayor spoke at Gallier Hall during an address to an invite-only crowd about the removal of four Confederate-era monuments.

Work to remove the Robert E. Lee statue started on Friday before dawn.

Workers ripped away landscaping from around the monument as heavy equipment moved in to remove the statue from his 60-foot tall perch. After sunrise, crews actually entered the pedestal just under Robert E. Lee.

Midway through the morning, crews stopped work as it appeared they were having trouble preparing the base for the crane.

By noon, about 100 people had gathered near Lee Circle to watch the statue come down. Some called it a historic moment.

"Because it's the last of these statues, it needs to come down. It's a symbol of racism that's unacceptable for 2017," monument opponent Storm Wyche said.

However, the crowd would have to wait. Work slowed to a crawl through the lunch hour and early afternoon but picked back up around 3 p.m. when crews tied a blue rope around the statue.

At the same time, Landrieu said during his address that removal of the monuments "faces our flaws and corrects them."

"The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered," he said.

Police began barricading off the area on Thursday afternoon. The entire circle was closed to pedestrians, vehicles and streetcars around 5 a.m. on Friday.

At one point earlier in the morning, a fight nearly broke out after someone snatched an American flag from a monument supporter and hid it in a vehicle. The crowd of protestors surrounded the van and a few men started a heated exchange.

Eventually, New Orleans police recovered the flag and returned it to the monument supporter. Other than that scuffle, the scene has been fairly tame.

Late Thursday night, officers arrested a man who claimed to be the "Lord and Savior." It is unclear if he was arrested.

Protestors admitted that nothing would stop the process of removing the monuments at this point.

"We can find a way to unify the city in another way," one protestor said.

Supporters of taking down the monuments were grateful.

"This city is founded on black achievement and innovation and talent, and I'm incredibly happy that these are coming down," a supporter said.

The removal of the statues has happened pretty quickly.

The P.G.T. Beauregard statue came down Wednesday morning. Crews began the set up for that removal near City Park around 7 p.m. on Tuesday with police setting up barricades, huge lights, and rolling in big trucks and a crane. The statue was not lifted until 3 a.m.

FULL COVERAGE: Confederate-Era Monument Controversy

That happened less than a week after the Jefferson Davis Statue was removed from its pedestal in Mid-City on May 11. The process required the city to shut down the busy intersection of Canal St. and Jefferson Davis Pkwy.

Crews dismantled the Liberty Place monument at the foot of Canal St. on April 24.

The Landrieu administration announced it would replace the Robert E. Lee monument with a fountain and Jefferson Davis with an American flag.

The city is still trying to work out what it will do at the site of P.G.T. Beauregard.

The site of the Liberty Place monument will remain empty.

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