At Lee Circle, an intersection less than a mile from one of the Mississippi River’s snaking bends through this city, local legend has it that the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands, arms folded, facing north so as to keep an eye on his adversaries.
On Sunday, some of those adversaries marched in a second-line parade to the traffic circle where Lee’s statue stands — centurion-like, stationed above the treeline atop a white stone pedestal — to protest the monument’s place in the circle and to bury Lee’s place in history, which some revere and others revile. They were met by Confederate-flag wavers keeping vigil there, some wearing riot gear or motorcycle helmets.
The tense meeting came amid a debate about the future of the 130-year-old monument to the Confederate army leader. In December 2015, after days of public discussion, the New Orleans City Council voted to remove the Lee monument and three others honoring the Confederacy from prominent public spaces around town. Proponents of the memorials mounted a legal fight to save them, but lost.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) has vowed to remove Lee’s statue and two other prominent memorials — one to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard in City Park and another of Confederate president Jefferson Davis in a greenway in the Mid-City neighborhood — in short order, as soon as this week, by some reports. But city officials have refused to provide precise dates, because of threats made against contractors involved in removing the statues. When the Battle of Liberty Place monument, a memorial honoring those who died in an attempt to overthrow the city government after the Civil War, came down two weeks ago, contractors did the work in the middle of the night wearing kevlar and face masks.
“The time surely comes when (justice) must and will be heard,” Landrieu told the council in 2015, explaining why he and others believed the statues must go. “Members of the council, that day is today. The Confederacy, you see, was on the wrong side of history and humanity.”
On Sunday, the scene remained largely nonviolent. Three people were arrested, all men defending the monuments and charged with disturbing the peace after getting into a skirmish. At Lee Circle, there was some yelling between the pro-monument and anti-monument crowds and some icy stares. Much of the fury and the verbal challenges came from the monument defenders, who appeared to be outnumbered by the second-line participants by at least two to one.
SOURCE: Janell Ross
The Washington Post