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In New Orleans, Officials Remove First Of 4 Confederate Monuments

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In New Orleans early this morning, contractors removed a prominent monument before the sun came up. People have fought for years over whether and how to remove Confederate monuments. Many find the statues offensive, saying they glorify slavery. Others say they're an important part of New Orleans' history. Tegan Wendland of member station WWNO reports.

TEGAN WENDLAND, BYLINE: I'm standing at what's now the former site of the Battle of Liberty Place monument, and it's a quiet scene, just a slab of concrete. Now tourists walk back and forth on their way to the ferry or downtown, and many of them don't seem to know what was here just 24 hours ago.

Do you know what was here before?

VASANTHI RAJAMORTHI: No. Something was going on. I was wondering.

SEAN O'SHEA: I don't have any idea what was here before.

WENDLAND: While Vasanthi Rajamorthi and Sean O'Shea haven't heard of it, lots of people do know about this monument to white supremacy. The last time the city hired a contractor to take one of these statues down, someone firebombed his car. There were also death threats. So in the middle of the night with no warning, workers wearing helmets and flak jackets dismantled the giant obelisk. Protesters and supporters yelled on.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Your statue next.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Democracy in action.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It'll be whatever you want next.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm proud of it. I'm proud of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That's what's going to come down.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Democracy in action - my vote matters.

WENDLAND: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says three more prominent monuments will soon come down, those of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH LANDRIEU: I believe more strongly today than ever that in New Orleans, we should truly remember all of our history, not some of it. And that means we will no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal in the heart of our city.

WENDLAND: He says the statues don't represent history. They were put up far after the end of the Civil War to show the South had no sense of guilt. He says they'll be put into storage for now and maybe eventually in a museum. For NPR News, I'm Tegan Wendland in New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.