Opinion: Workers Have To Wear Battle Armor To Safely Remove White Supremacist Monument

It has been less than two years since the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled that racism no longer exists in America, so there was no necessity to protect people of color’s right to participate in democratic elections. Today, there is a White House administration infested with white supremacists celebrating the ardent support of racist organizations putting to rest any concept of racism’s demise in America. To announce to the world that it will not condone overt displays of white supremacy, the city of New Orleans removed a blatantly ‘white supremacist’ monument during the pre-dawn hours on Monday. The workers wearing masks and bullet-proof armor were covered by police snipers and a phalanx of law enforcement officials blocking access to where the workers toiled in the dead of night to remove a pox on the city and the nation.

For about two years New Orleans, a city with a 60.2 percent African-American population, had attempted to remove the first of four Confederate monuments to white supremacy known collectively as the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” The first of the four abominations, an obelisk from New Orleans city center known as “Liberty Place” was removed in the wee hours of Sunday night (1:30 a.m.) to protect the construction workers who had received death threats from white supremacists incensed that the homage to their Aryan Utopia was being dismantled and relocated.

Three other Confederate monuments are slated for the same fate as the ‘white supremacy’ obelisk including statues honoring traitors to America Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and P.G.T. Beauregard. New Orleans officials are not revealing when the remaining monuments will be removed because contractors brave enough to bid on the job have been, and still are, receiving death threats from the white supremacist movement. One anonymous contractor pulled out of the bidding after a rash of death threats against him culminated with his car being “torched” old-school Klan style. The eventual contract winner, Couzon Services, LLC, asked for three times the amount New Orleans’ budget had allotted to remove the celebration of racism.

New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu issued a press release that he said was meant to send a message that New Orleans embraces its diversity and rejects racism. Mayor Landrieu said:

The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. Relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, blame or retaliation.

This is not a naive quest to solve all our problems at once. This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile — and most importantly — choose a better future.”

The 1891-erected monument honored 16 members of the Crescent City White League who died during a violent revolt against the newly racially-integrated New Orleans police force. The 16 all-white, mostly Confederate veterans, died during the white supremacist insurrection that also claimed the lives of thirteen police officers and state militia; six innocent bystanders also lost their lives.

The Associated Press reported that besides city workers “wearing bulletproof vests, military-style helmets and scarves that obscured their faces,” there was substantial police presence protecting the workers. Police not only positioned themselves as a barricade to the monument’s entry points, police snipers were stationed on a hotel’s parking garage overlooking the monument.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Senior Advisor and Communications Director, Tyronne B. Walker, told ThinkProgress:

Due to safety concerns, we believed it was very important to take all necessary precautions to protect the safety of all personnel involved in the operation.”

Despite New Orleans’ majority African American population, it took over two years to finally get the white supremacist abomination removed. Mayor Landrieu signed an ordinance in 2015 supporting the racist monument’s removal from public property, followed by a City Council vote of 6-1 supporting Landrieu’s ordinance last year. New Orleans also won the support of the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana in March to rid the city of the white supremacist monuments.

One of the incidents that ramped up the debate over removing a monument to white supremacy was the white supremacist Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage of nine African American worshippers at the Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. It took that racially-driven horror to convince South Carolina to remove the racist Confederate flag from statehouse grounds. The University of Mississippi followed South Carolina’s lead and took down the state flag that contained the racist Confederate symbol.  However, other former Confederate states seemingly doubled-down on their devotion to honoring white supremacy and treason against the United States.

It is very revealing that the lingering love-affair of white supremacists with their treasonous past is still strong. Two other former Confederate states commemorated the white supremacists on the same day the first of the monuments was removed in New Orleans. Both Alabama and Mississippi closed down all state government offices to honor Confederate traitors and celebrate “Confederate Memorial Day.”

Not to be outdone, Georgia Governor Phil Bryant signed a proclamation that declared April 2017 as Confederate Heritage month; “to honor those who served in the Confederacy.” That service was in a bloody war to destroy the United States of America and preserve slavery and maintain the white supremacy that still permeates the population.

For an idea of the white supremacist mindset the now-removed obelisk represented, in 1932 the Crescent City White League attached a plaque that read:

McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored). United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”

It took until 1974 for New Orleans’ residents’ outrage to reach a fevered pitch over the “overtly racist language” that lead city leaders to attach an additional inscription.

Although the Battle of Liberty Place and this monument are important parts of New Orleans’ history, the sentiments in favor of White supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present day New Orleans.”

Finally, the city removed the white supremacist plaque altogether and added one dedicated to the police officers who died defending the legally-elected government officials and their integrated police department. The new plaque read:

In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place … A conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.

Thirty years later the lesson of the racist past still failed to reach the white supremacist movement. The offending monument was the site chosen by “avowed Ku Klux Klan member” David Duke for a rally in  2004. In 2017, white supremacists used intimidation and death threats against any contractor who dared even bid on the removal job and the city workers assigned to the task.

It is glaringly obvious that throughout America, especially in the South, that lesson has never taken roots among the population. White supremacy is still rampant among conservatives or Donald Trump would not be living in the White House or be threatening America’s future as a diverse nation. Trump, like many in the GOP, pandered to white supremacists throughout the presidential campaign earning their electoral support and endorsements any decent human being would have condemned.

The real travesty in what should have been an uplifting story about racial progress is that despite Americans electing an African American as their President, twice, this nation is still a racist’s wet dream. If America wasn’t racist, construction workers would not have to labor in the dead of night, with flak jackets, combat helmets, and masks concealing their identities with snipers stationed on rooftops to protect them from the real danger of white supremacists.

That danger has always existed in America, but after a year-and-a-half of Trump’s rampaging racism against Middle-Eastern people, Hispanic immigrants, Mexican-American citizens, and African Americans, it is safe to say that just removing a few monuments to white supremacy will do little more than enrage the white racists to action; something that should terrify every American.

h/t MattOsborne

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