in New Orleans, where on Friday the city removed the last of four Confederate statues in recent weeks. Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate as the massive bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee came down. It was the first of a series of monuments to be removed during daylight. Workers wore bulletproof vests and face coverings to conceal their identities as they used a crane to remove the statue from a 60-foot-high pedestal. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said threats and intimidation necessitated the overnight work and extra safety precautions.
White nationalists have staged a series of protests and issued threats in the lead-up to the memorials’ removals. A car belonging to one of the workers had also been set on fire. Though the four most prominent Confederate monuments have been removed, activists are calling for New Orleans officials to remove all monuments, school names and street signs in New Orleans dedicated to white supremacists.
Malcolm Suber talking:
Take ’Em Down NOLA is a continuation of the decades-long struggle of black people in this city to rid ourselves of the presence of these white supremacy monuments. Take ’Em Down NOLA was founded two-and-a-half years ago, and in the wake of the Bree Newsome taking down the Confederate flag in South Carolina and the shootings in Charleston. And we felt that it was necessary for us to come together and really press the city to step up its efforts or renew our efforts to get rid of these white supremacy monuments.
And so, just coincidentally, the mayor announced that he wanted to get rid of four statues around the same time. And from the very beginning, our position was, we are not satisfied with you just saying that there will—the mayor saying that there would only be four statues removed, when we knew, due to our historical research, that there were more than 20 Confederate statues, hundreds of street names and 30 school names. So, in all, there was 130 or 140 Confederate memorials in the city that needed to be removed. And so, our position with the mayor has been, if you truly believe that these Confederate memorials are here to terrorize and to remind black people about who is in charge in the city, then you should expand your reach. And as far as we’re concerned, we, of course, welcome these four being down, but we’ve got plenty of work to do. And we’re asking the mayor to join us in this effort, rather than ask us to be satisfied with these four.
we think, of course, the whole history of white supremacist organizations in the South has been one of terrorism. And so, even though they don’t march in the streets with sheets any longer, they have organized themselves and are still issuing all kinds of threats against myself, against the city officials and everybody else who they can think of. But again, history proceeds, and we are not afraid to challenge these white supremacist institutions.
And, of course, a real reflection of how bad race relations are in the state of Louisiana and in New Orleans is that every white legislator in the Louisiana House or Representatives voted last Monday to require a popular vote to have any of these Confederate statues removed, especially of any soldier, including those who were traitors who fought in the Confederate Army. So that, of course, revealed that their true position was to support white supremacy. And as a result of that, all of the—all 23 of the black representatives walked out after the vote and rightly and justifiably called this another white supremacist assault against black people in the state.
if you really do believe Mayor Landrieu, if you really do believe that we can’t wait and we should get rid of all these statues, then you’ve got to extend that reach to get rid of all of them. Let’s go forward with a clean slate. Let’s get rid of all the Confederate street names, all the Confederate names on our schools and the rest of the Confederate statues. We just believe there is some inconsistency in the mayor’s position. If he really believes what he says and is not just putting words out for public consumption, then he should join Take ’Em Down NOLA and put a timetable as to when we would get all these things done. And then we can celebrate and go forward and talk about beginning to really address the many problems of the black community here, including 50 percent male unemployment, including 50 percent of our children live in poverty, and, of course, New Orleans is the most incarcerated place in the entire world.
Billy Nungesser is a white supremacist, believes in white supremacy. And we don’t believe—we don’t take seriously his argument that tourists come to New Orleans to bathe themselves in white supremacy. People come to New Orleans to enjoy the vibrancy of our city, its food, its culture. And very few people come here out of any love or desire to learn about the history of the enslavement of African people and the oppression of African people in the Jim Crow era. So we think these are all thinly veiled arguments to support white supremacy. And our position in Take ‘Em Down NOLA is that not only should these things be removed, but they should be destroyed. We don’t think that they should be on public display in any context, because, like the mayor said, these things were put up purposely to celebrate white supremacy and the oppression of another people. And we don’t think that the city should be going forward, getting ready to celebrate its 300th birthday—that it should be going forward with a clean slate, getting rid of all Confederate monuments.
these memorials, all across the South, in every courthouse, in every county, throughout the South, they’ve got a Confederate soldiers’ monument. And they don’t teach our kids in schools that these people were indeed traitors. And, of course, the United States made some fundamental errors after Reconstruction. First of all, the battle flags and these traitors should not have been allowed to participate in the politics of this country. And because of that legacy, instead of doing as they have done in Germany and outlawing all these things that are reminders of the enslavement of African people, they celebrate it. And as long as they celebrate it, they won’t ever understand that these things are daily insults to African people and to our allies and that they must be gotten rid of, if we’re going to move forward on the basis of freedom and equality.
co-founder of Take ’Em Down NOLA
— source democracynow.org