Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration on Monday halted its effort to find a contractor to take down three Confederate monuments in New Orleans, citing previous threats of violence and an appeals court injunction that prohibits the statues’ removal while a federal court case plays out.
Unlike previous delays, City Hall officials said Monday they are canceling the public bidding process entirely, though they plan to resume it eventually.
Monday had been the deadline for new bids.
“Due to previous violence and threats during the bid process, we will wait to re-advertise the project until we feel confident a resolution in the court is near and a contractor may be publicly procured so that monuments may be relocated without further delay,” Landrieu press secretary Hayne Rainey said.
The effort to remove statues honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and a militia group called the White League, which sought to overthrow the state’s biracial Reconstruction-era government, has been controversial since Landrieu first proposed it a year ago.
The City Council voted 6-1 in December to take down all four monuments, prompting a lawsuit from the Monumental Task Committee and others who support the statues.
The administration then moved forward with efforts to secure a contractor to take down all the statues except the White League monument, which is protected by a court order from a previous case. The administration has sought to get that order lifted so it can relocate that monument as well.
The case has been tied up in the courts since then. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction in March preventing the city from removing the statues until the court hears an appeal from monument supporters.
Those supporters also have taken their case to the court of public opinion, actively urging contractors on social media to stay away from the project.
Baton Rouge-based H&O Investments, the firm the city initially hired to remove the monuments, backed out of the project in January after its owner reported that he, his staff and his wife had received death threats and intimidating phone calls. Owner David Mahler also reported that his Lamborghini was set on fire.
The city then tried to rebid the work. After at least two companies said they received intimidating calls about the project, city officials removed a list of contractors that had shown interest in the job from its website.
Officials also postponed a bid submission deadline of March 29 to April 22 and later pushed it back to Monday. They would not say whether or from whom they had received bids.
Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.