The dueling protests at the Jefferson Davis monument in New Orleans' Mid-City had been heated all night. Suddenly, a monument opponent stood inches away from a monument supporter -- armed with a long gun and a chest full of magazines -- at the base of the statue honoring the Confederacy’s first and only president.
The monument supporter stood stone-faced as the opponent taunted him. Neither man was budging. This was the scene on Monday night during a packed, tense protest and counter-protest over the future of Confederate monuments in New Orleans.
A small group of monument supporters, several of them carrying guns, faced off against hundreds of monument opponents, many of them carrying black-and-red flags. For more than an hour, the two sides shouted and stared at each other.
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The exchanges occasionally got more than testy. Police detained at least four people on the scene, although it was not clear whether anyone was booked. One of the detainees, a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild, said he was released with a summons for crossing a police cordon.
The tensions eased only when New Orleans police officers created a pathway out of the hostile crowd for the monument supporters. They filed one by one to the safety of a nearby pickup truck.
“We fought you without fear for 100 years, we’ll fight you for 100 more. Go on home Johnny Rebel, go on home!” the monument opponents sang as the supporters walked.
The more than two dozen police on hand then ordered the entire crowd across the neutral ground and away from the statue. As the crowd dispersed, its members briefly halted the passage of a streetcar traveling down Canal Street.
“It turned into something we were not expecting,” said Eris Walsh, a New Orleans resident and monument opponent who was also at the statue on Sunday. “It got more heated than I personally would have liked.”
Walsh said the day before, only a small group of monument protesters stood across the neutral ground from the Confederate flag-waving supporters across the street. “There really wasn’t any kind of antagonism,” she said.
By Monday night, the ratio between the groups had switched, and so had the mood.
Monument supporters were quick to claim that they were not at fault for the charged atmosphere.
“There seems to be a whole lot of anger, a whole lot of animosity. But it’s not coming from our group,” said Eileen Marcinowski. She had come to the monument in a wheelchair and with an American flag. As soon as she arrived, she was on the receiving end of bottles thrown at her, she said.
Meanwhile, several monument opponents expressed alarm at the presence of guns in the other camp. Walsh said she was not alarmed as long as the monument supporters did not point their guns at her.
Walsh is a gun owner. Still, she added, “I don’t feel the need to bring them to a peaceful protest. I don’t understand why they do.”
Shortly before midnight, flatbed trucks arrived with dozens of metal barricades. Police quickly placed them in a wide perimeter around the statue. It was not immediately clear why the barricades were being erected.
An NOPD official told reporters on site that the monument wouldn't come down yet.
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