NEW ORLEANS — Protesters calling for the removal and the preservation of Confederate-era monuments faced off Sunday in dueling demonstrations highlighting the intense emotions surrounding the monuments’ removal.
Local media reported protesters from both sides showed up at a memorial honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Sunday. The statue is one of three memorials to Confederate-era figures the city plans to take down. Another memorial has already been removed.
The New Orleans police put the number of demonstrators at about 700 and said they arrested three people involved in a scuffle near Lee Circle early in the afternoon. But local media said the demonstrations were largely peaceful.
A group called “Take Em Down NOLA” organized a protest from the city’s Congo Square to the statue. The group has advocated for removing the statues as well as other Confederate symbols across the city.
They were met at Lee Circle, where the towering figure of the Confederate general is perched on a pedestal in the middle of a traffic circle, by demonstrators who want the memorials to remain.
Demonstrators calling for the statues removal chanted: “Hey hey, ho ho, white supremacy’s got to go” while those who would like them to stay waved Confederate battle flags and American flags.
“It’s a part of our heritage, and we want it to stay,” said Michael Hill, President of The League of the South told WWL-TV (http://bit.ly/2qQ26Fv ).
One of the organizers from “Take Em Down NOLA” told The Times Picayune ‘ NOLA.com (http://bit.ly/2qQJPaj ) that the day was a celebration.
“We feel it’s important people know that these symbols of white supremacy coming down is a time to celebrate,” said Angela Kinlaw.
At the Lee statue, the two opposing sides were separated by police barricades.
The city council voted to remove the monuments in 2015 at the urging of Mayor Mitch Landrieu — part of the national response after nine black parishioners were shot to death by an avowed racist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier that year. But the process of removing the statues was tied up for months in a court battle.
Late last month, the first monument — a 35-foot-tall granite obelisk — was removed by masked workers under cover of darkness. The obelisk was a tribute to whites who battled a biracial Reconstruction government installed in New Orleans after the Civil War.
In addition to the Lee statue, the city also plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T Beauregard on horseback and a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.