Sometimes the headline says it all. On Monday, the Washington Post ran an article titled “New Orleans removes a tribute to ‘the lost cause of the Confederacy’ — with snipers standing by.” The piece opens:
“On the same day that some southern states were honoring their rebel heritage, masked workers in New Orleans dismantled a monument to that past - chunk by chunk, under darkness and the protection of police snipers.”
The monument, an obelisk that honors the Battle of Liberty Place - fought years after the Civil War by members of the Crescent City White League - is the first of four statues linked to the Confederacy scheduled to be torn down.
Saying the Liberty Place monument honored “white supremacists” and that his government was on the “right side of history,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu asserted his town will “no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal.”
The removal operation was unannounced beforehand, and as to why it required police protection, Landrieu cited “intimidation and threats” by protesters who gathered at the scene to oppose the statue’s removal.
Again, from the Washington Post:
“After a small group of protesters dispersed about 1:30, a.m., police officers barricaded surrounding streets, and snipers took position on a rooftop above the statue, according to the Times-Picayune. By 3 a.m., workers were drilling into the obelisk’s pale stonework.
“Contractors wore face masks, helmets, and what one reporter described at a news conference the next morning as ‘military-like bulletproof vests. Landrieu said the workers were disguised for their protection.”
A New Orleans group called the Monumental Task Committee says that’s unacceptable. The group’s president released a statement condemning the manner in which the removal was conducted.
“This secretive removal under the cloak of darkness, outside of the public bid, masked contractors, and using unidentified money reeks of atrocious government,” the statement reads.
Some in the local media are predicting that public anger over what the Post called a “sneak attack” will grow as the news spreads. Either way it goes, this story, perhaps more than anything, shows how truly politically charged this nation has become.