UPDATE, 3:15 a.m.
After more than 7 hours of prep, workers lifted the statue of P.G.T. Beauregard from the base it had sat on for nearly 102 years.
The work began about 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday when police swept the area and cleared demonstrators away from the statue. Shortly later a crane was brought into the area, which lifted Beauregard and his horse.
The base of the statue was not planned to be removed Wednesday morning, according to a tweet from Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni just after 3 a.m.
Construction equipment and a heavy police presence were in place around the statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard Tuesday evening, a prelude to the removal of the monument overnight.
Large groups of police had moved protesters away from the monument to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu confirmed the monument would be taken down in a statement late Tuesday.
“Today we take another step in defining our City not by our past but by our bright future,” said Landrieu. “While we must honor our history, we will not allow the Confederacy to be put on a pedestal in the heart of New Orleans. As we near our City’s 300th anniversary, we must continue to find courage to stand up to hate and embrace justice and compassion.”
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Columns of dozens of police officers on foot and horseback cleared the protesters and the clusters of Confederate and U.S. flags that had been planted in the traffic circle on which the statue sits about 7:20 p.m.
The heavy police presence, which included SWAT team sharpshooters comes after monuments to the Battle of Liberty Place and Confederate President Jefferson Davis had been removed in previous weeks.
If there is a case to be made for Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, it is probably this: At least he a…
Those removals came in the middle of the night, something the city has said is necessary due to continuing threats against contractors and city workers.
Protesters were active at the monument throughout the day, with at least one altercation breaking out.
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The removals come nearly two years after Mayor Mitch Landrieu first called for statues of Beauregard, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis to be removed, along with a statue to the white supremacist militia known as the white league. A six-month process of public hearings, followed by more than a year of legal battles, delayed those removals until late last month.
The Beauregard statue was the first of those monuments to be removed outside of the early morning hours. Work to take down White League statue, commemorating the Battle of Liberty Place, began without notice about 1:30 a.m. on April 24 and the Davis statue came down under similar circumstances starting about 4 a.m. on May 11, a day after the anniversary of his capture by Union forces in 1865.
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City officials have pointed to threats against contractors and city officials to justify the need for secrecy surrounding the removal of the monuments and the large contingents of police present when the work has been underway.
That police presence began building near Beauregard Tuesday evening, with SWAT team sharpshooters, multiple patrol units, mounted police and emergency medical services all staging in the area while barricades and spotlights were stationed nearby.
Several dozen protesters ringed the monument with confederate and U.S. flags in the hours before the removal, though the event did not draw the same crowds as last week, when about a hundred protesters on each side watched from behind police barricades until Davis was taken off his pedestal.
The removal comes after a last-ditch lawsuit to preserve the statue, based on arguments that City Park and not New Orleans owns the statue, was shot down by Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese last week. Richard Marksbury, the Tulane University professor of Asian Studies who filed the suit, said Tuesday he would not appeal that ruling.
In an emailed statement Tuesday evening, City Park officials indicated they would not stand in the way of the statues removal, though they confirmed that broader issues over property rights were being discussed with the city.
Landrieu called for the removal of the monuments during the summer of 2015, after white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at a black church in Charleston. Landrieu argued the statues had been erected as part of the so-called “Cult of the Lost Cause,” an effort to rehabilitate the Confederacy’s image and reassert white dominance in the south after Reconstruction.