Activists pushing for the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans want city officials to take them down in broad daylight with a public celebration.
Responding to rumors that Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration might act without notice under cover of darkness, the group Take 'Em Down NOLA held a news conference Monday morning to urge officials to schedule the removals publicly and during the day.
Malcolm Suber, one of the group's main organizers, said removing the statues in secret would be "cowardly."
“We want a public celebration,” he said.
The city has been trying for almost a year and a half to take down statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate President Jefferson Davis and an obelisk honoring a Reconstruction-era militia group known as the White League and the so-called Battle of Liberty Place.
Last week, rumors that some of the statues might be removed in the middle of the night made their way to groups both in favor of and opposed to the monuments.
No statues were taken down last week, and city officials denied a plan had ever been put in place to do so.
Take 'Em Down has supported the removal of the four monuments and also has called for removing or renaming 100 other statues, streets and institutions in the city that organizers say glorify proponents of white supremacy — a demand that has been rejected or ignored by city officials.
Suber said the organization had received word from a city employee about the plan to clandestinely remove some of the statues.
City officials have said they’ve stepped up security on some contractors and city employees in the wake of threats apparently made by some of those hoping to keep the monuments in place. That security plan could potentially include removing the markers without prior announcement.
But Suber said threats should not stop the city from moving forward publicly, and he challenged Landrieu to schedule their removal with an announcement.
Asked about security concerns, he said, "What do they have a police force for?"
Landrieu's office did not respond to a request for comment on Suber’s demand.
It's been difficult to find a contractor for the work, with some firms reporting that they had received death threats.
One contractor called the New Orleans Police Department to report threats and harassing calls and texts last Wednesday, according to a police report.
The contractor told police he had been awarded the contract to remove the monuments, according to the report, which was redacted to protect the identity of the contractor and his business.
It is not clear whether the contractor who made the call was Cuzan Services, the only company that submitted a bid to remove the statues of Lee, Beauregard and Davis, or another firm that was rumored to have been hired to help city officials remove the Liberty Place monument in the middle of the night.
The contractor told police his company’s name had been disseminated on social media and through radio outlets and that his personal information had been made public, according to the report — a situation that seemed to describe the experience of the second contractor.
The contractor told police he had seen threats on social media and received threatening voice mails and texts from blocked numbers. The contractor “stated the threats have not been specific in nature, but rather generalized wishes against his well being, such as ‘you better watch your back,’ ‘better hope I don’t see you on the street’ and ‘if I see him, I’ll (mess) him up,’ ” according to the police report.
The contractor “admitted he is unnerved by these threatening messages enough to want them documented and to the point where he is fearful of someone actually trying to cause him harm,” according to the report.
It does not appear the police have a suspect or suspects in the case.
On Monday, Suber also criticized the city for not doing more to find those responsible for the threats.
“We’re demanding the racist terrorists be put in jail, because we know if we had been making the same threats, they would have locked us up and thrown away the key,” he said.
The statues of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis have…