City officials announced Thursday night that the statue of Robert E. Lee would be plucked from its column in Lee Circle on Friday, making it the last and most prominent of four Confederate monuments targeted for removal by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration to be taken down.
The removal of the Lee statue will mark the end of nearly two years of fiery arguments over the four monuments, which Landrieu and other city officials have argued were erected to reassert white dominance in New Orleans during the Jim Crow era.
The process of removing the statue will likely begin about 9 a.m., and Landrieu plans to speak about the removal at 3 p.m.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu will give a special address on the removal of New Orleans historical mo…
In announcing the removal, the city also provided new details about what will happen to the statues and the sites on which they have sat for generations. The city said it will seek proposals from nonprofits or governments outside of New Orleans to display the displaced statues in what it considers to be their proper context.
In a press release Thursday night, the Landrieu administration announced that the 68-foot-high column on which Lee stands, in the middle of Lee Circle, will remain in place and the city will "be undertaking public infrastructure improvements to include a water feature at the circle." The site will also be able to incorporate public art, according to the release, though it did not say what that art might be.
Landrieu previously discussed adding a water feature or fountain to the site but also had talked about forming a committee that would look into various options for replacing each of the statues.
The statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis at Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway, which was removed last week, will be replaced by an American flag, according to the city's release.
City Park officials will take the lead in determining what should replace the statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, which was removed earlier this week. The equestrian statue stood in a traffic circle at the main entrance to the park.
The site of the monument to the Battle of Liberty Place, a white supremacist uprising against the state's Reconstruction-era government, will be left vacant. That site, on Iberville Street behind the parking garage at Canal Place, is largely out of public sight.
With the all-night process of removing the statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard from…
It is not clear whether the administration will attempt to rename Jefferson Davis Parkway, Robert E. Lee Boulevard or Lee Circle, whose name technically refers only to the center of the traffic circle and not to the street itself, though that land could likely also be renamed.
The city said it expects to seek proposals from nonprofits or governments interested in taking the monuments to Lee, Davis and the Battle of Liberty Place. The city will not accept proposals that would call for the statues to be displayed outdoors in Orleans Parish.
The Beauregard statue is not included in that list because the city will be talking with City Park officials about the ownership of that statue and the land on which it stood for 102 years. In a court case earlier this month, city officials were dismissive of the idea that City Park owns the land or the statue, though that attitude appears to have changed.
Those interested in taking the statues will be able to submit proposals for each of them individually or for the whole group, according to the release. But the proposals must "state how they will place the statues in context, both in terms of why they were first erected and why the city chose in 2015 to remove them."
Finally, the state is starting to play a productive role in the New Orleans monument mess.
The City Council will have the final say over which proposals are accepted.
It is unclear whether the city's bid process will involve a sale of the statues, a free loan to the chosen institutions or some other arrangement. The Landrieu administration has previously taken a hard line against donating city property, including a recent attempt to require property owners to pay to lease the space under their balconies, stoops or other property features that impinge on public sidewalks.
In the meantime, the monuments will be crated and stored in a city facility, according to the release. That appears to be in response to criticism Wednesday, when the Beauregard statue and pieces of the Davis statue were spotted outdoors in a storage yard.
Until Thursday night, city officials had refused to detail specifics of plans for the Lee monument's removal, as was the case for the previous three statues.
However, a news release sent out about 9:45 p.m. said the removal would take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday.
"No parking" signs appeared on streets around the circle Thursday morning, and New Orleans police began adding barricades near the site during the day. Meanwhile, crews began taking down the overhead power lines for the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, likely to make way for the large crane needed to remove the statue from its 68-foot-tall columnThe preparations were reminiscent of those that preceded the relocation of three other statues that Landrieu first called to be removed from public places in July 2015. The council agreed with that plan in December 2015 on a 6-1 vote.
Statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard were both removed over the past 10 days. A monument honoring the so-called Battle of Liberty Place, an insurrection by the white supremacist White League during Reconstruction, was removed in late April.
Those removals were all done at night by crews wearing body armor, helmets and masks due to security concerns caused by threats made to contractors and city employees involved in the process.
Scores of people have taken to the streets in the dead of night lately, flagrantly breaking …
"No parking" signs were placed around Lee Circle on Thursday forbidding any vehicle to park there after midnight, and RTA officials said the St. Charles streetcar line was on detour below Erato Street until further notice.
The appearance of barricades in the area is not new, as many have been at least stored near the statue for several weeks. On May 7, an anti-monuments march culminated at the site, with anti- and pro-monument protesters clashing at several points. Barricades separated the opposing groups as the march reached Lee Circle, and the demonstration — though tense — eventually dispersed peacefully.
The Lee monument's removal was believed to pose special challenges because of its location and height.