The monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis was taken off its pedestal early Thursday morning, marking the halfway point of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's effort to remove statues honoring three Confederate leaders and a white supremacist militia from public land in New Orleans.
Once again, crews in helmets, masks and body armor took down the statue — as they had done with the Battle of Liberty Place monument two weeks ago — in the dead of night with no official forewarning, precautions taken in response to threats against contractors and city officials working on the project.
Even so, a few hundred on-lookers, both pro- and anti-monuments, watched as workers used a crane to remove the monument to the Confederacy's first and only president from its pedestal.
The crowd included both monument supporters who have kept watch at the statue since April 24 and those affiliated with Take 'Em Down NOLA, an activist group that has called for the removal of a wide variety of monuments and other symbols in the city they say honor believers in white supremacy.
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"Today we continue the mission," Landrieu said in a statement. "These monuments have stood not as historical or educational markers of our legacy and segregation, but in celebration of it."
In the past week, a chain-link fence was put up around the monument, creating a second ring of obstructions around the site where protesters have clashed.
And, shortly before the statue's removal began about 3 a.m., both sides were ushered into corrals of police barricades that had been set up beforehand, separated from each other by the barriers and from the statue by more barricades, Canal Street and a line of officers.
Removing the statue from its pedestal took about two hours, and once it was removed the crowds on both sides left the scene.
Workers, who ran into trouble removing the large, heavy pedestal, did not wrap up work until about 10:30 a.m.
The heavy security around the monuments' removal has come amid concerns over threats that have emerged in the nearly two-year process of taking them down. That's led the city to withhold information on the timeline for removing any of the statues, including the monuments to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard that have yet to be removed.
But both sides of the issue saw their numbers swell by Wednesday evening, fed by widespread rumors that the Davis statue would be removed Thursday morning.
"This morning we continue our march to reconciliation by removing the Jefferson Davis Confederate statue from its pedestal of reverence," Landrieu said in his statement.
The city has given little indication what will happen to the name of the thoroughfare where the statue stood, Jefferson Davis Parkway.
Early on in the debate over the monuments, Landrieu had discussed renaming that street and Lee Circle, site of the Lee statue, but the administration has never discussed the details of how a new name will be picked or when that might occur.
Geneva Joy, a comedian who lives on the parkway and came out to celebrate the Davis statue's removal, said the process will not be complete until the street itself is renamed.
Joy described the monument and the other statues as small, persistent reminders of slavery.
"When you walk down the (renamed) street, you won't have constant reminders of the people who fought to keep your ancestors enslaved," Joy said.
The ultimate fate of the Davis statue and whether anything will replace it are both unclear. The statues are being stored in city warehouses while the administration tries to find a park or museum where they can be permanently housed. There has been no information on what the process for commissioning new monuments might look like.
The protests at the Davis statue before and during the removal were similarly peaceful. While the two groups shouted and taunted each other, there was no violence either between the groups or directed at police.
One man was detained by police. It was not clear whether he was arrested or what he had done.
The City Council voted to remove the four monuments — Davis, Lee, Liberty Place and Beauregard — in December 2015 at the urging of Landrieu.
The decision was part of a national response after nine black parishioners were shot to death by an avowed racist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier that year.
The shooter, Dylann Roof, brandished Confederate flags in several photographs that came to light soon after his arrest. Roof said he intended to start a race war with the killings.
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