Organizers who have threatened to try to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square are asking the New Orleans Police Department not to block their attempt.

Leaders of Take 'Em Down NOLA, a group that has called for the removal of a wide range of statues in the city honoring historical figures who owned slaves or fought for the Confederacy, asked that the NOPD "stay back" when they try to remove the Jackson statue this weekend.

They spoke Thursday at a news conference outside City Hall where they reiterated their plans.

 

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The group plans to lead a protest march Saturday afternoon from Congo Square to Jackson Square that will culminate with an effort to pull down the statue of the country's seventh president — perhaps the most recognizable monument in New Orleans.

"We understand the city and the Police Department are able to prevent us" from taking down the statue," said Malcolm Suber, one of the lead organizers of the group, as he stood in front of a group of about 20 supporters. "But we are asking them to step aside."

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It's unlikely the city will agree to that request. After Take 'Em Down announced their intentions last week, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration asked that "any public demonstrations remain peaceful and respectful" and said that "vandalism of any public property is strictly prohibited."

Asked about precautions that will be taken, Landrieu spokesman Hayne Rainey said, "NOPD is well trained to use the highest standards to protect people and property while ensuring the law is followed and is prepared to take necessary precautions to ensure public safety."

Suber said members of his group are prepared to be arrested during the protest.

Saturday's demonstration has dual purposes.

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One is to protest the long delay in taking down four other statues honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and a white militia known as the White League that led a revolt against the state's biracial Reconstruction-era government.

The mayor called for the removal of those statues from public property last summer, and the City Council agreed in December. But the statues remain standing because of a federal lawsuit filed by groups seeking to keep them in place. The city has been fighting that suit, and the next major hearing in the case is expected to take place next week.

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The demonstration's other purpose concerns the Jackson statue itself. While it is not on the list of monuments to be removed, the fact that city officials have not seriously considered whether the statue honoring Jackson's victory in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 should be taken down has riled some activists.

They argue that Jackson, a slave owner who was responsible for the removal of Native American tribes from the Southeast, does not deserve to be honored today, much less in the city's most prominent public square.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​