Final Confederate monument coming down in New Orleans

Barricades, no-parking signs surround Lee Circle

The city of New Orleans plans to take down the confederate statue on Friday, May 18, 2017, completing the southern citys removal of four Confederate-related statues that some called divisive.

Built in the center of a traffic circle once known as Tivoli Circle, the Lee statue was unveiled to a crowd The Daily Picayune estimated to number 15,000.

And on Wednesday, a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was removed.

Efforts to remove Confederate statues are underway in other parts of the South, including in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a Robert E. Lee statue is scheduled to be removed.

Speaking as work crews placed straps around the statue of Robert E. Lee that has towered above Lee Circle since the late 1800s, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu highlighted the unpleasant history of enslavement and lynching in New Orleans. The Confederacy was made up of states that attempted to preserve slavery in the South and secede from the United States in the Civil War of 1861 to 1865.

One onlooker, John Renner, a white man and an IL native, said the statue should remain because it represents history.

While many were supportive of removal, opinions varied widely in the crowd. "So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well, what I just described to you is our history as well". "And after the Civil War, these monuments were part of that terrorism as much as burning a cross on someone's lawn", Landrieu said. The Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

The final drive to remove the monuments began when Landrieu called for them to come down in the summer of 2015, but some civil rights activists said they have been seeking their removal for decades.

Landrieu plans to address city residents later in the afternoon. It would be impossible to do the removal "at dark and maintain the safety of the construction workers", he said.

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"So now is a time to come together to heal and to focus on a larger task", he added, "making this city a handsome manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become".

Landrieu had proposed removing the monuments after the 2015 massacre of nine black parishioners at a SC church. The killer, Dylann Roof, was an avowed racist who brandished Confederate battle flags in photos, recharging the debate over whether Confederate emblems represent racial bias or an honorable heritage. Four Southern states - South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee - have passed similar preservation acts that block local municipalities from removing or altering historic war monuments.

The 16-foot-tall bronze statue of Robert E. Lee has stood over New Orleans for 133 years.

Workers ripped away landscaping from around the monument as heavy equipment moved in to remove the statue from his 60-foot tall perch.

On Thursday, Landrieu's office said in a statement that it had received offers from public and private institutions to take individual monuments and would solicit proposals only from governmental entities and nonprofit groups. "It's a part of my heritage", said Varela.

The city said the statues can not be displayed outdoors on public property in New Orleans.

The statues will be put into storage while the city looks for a suitable place to display them, the mayor has said.

Barricades went up overnight around the park where the 16ft (4.8m) statue was perched atop a 60ft column.

The city wants to finish the work during its tricentennial year.

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