New Orleans removes third Confederate monument

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- Masked city workers in New Orleans dismantled a massive horseback statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard early Wednesday as the city attempts to rid itself of public works that celebrate the memory of the Confederacy, officials said.

The statue -- which honors the man who led a Confederate army in the attack that launched the Civil War -- is the third of four Confederate-era monuments vowed to take down, according to the city.

"Today we take another step in defining our city not by our past but by our bright future," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement late Tuesday. "While we must honor our history, we will not allow the Confederacy to be put on a pedestal in the heart of New Orleans."

Three statues have been removed since New Orleans voted in 2015 to dismantle four Confederate monuments that it said were built to "celebrate the 'Cult of the Lost Cause.'"

"'The Lost Cause' was known for espousing a number of principles, including that the war was fought over states' rights and not slavery, that slavery was a benevolent institution that offered Christianity to African 'savages,'" the city said in Tuesday's statement.

The monuments, which were erected between 1884 and 1915, are seen by many residents as symbols of white supremacy and racism.

The statues could eventually make their way to a museum, or another site, "where they can be placed in their proper historical context from a dark period of American history," the city said.

The city started the removal process late last month, beginning with the dismantling of the monument to the Battle at Liberty Place, which Landrieu said was put up to celebrate the murder of police officers by white supremacists.

Then, last Thursday, workers took down a statue honoring Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

Citing the threat of violence and the protection of public safety, the city has kept the timing of its removals secret, thus far working under the cover of darkness to take down monuments and protecting masked workers with a significant police presence.

The last remaining monument, a statue to Gen. Robert E. Lee, is set to be removed at an undetermined date in the near future.

Citing the same safety concerns as it did before, the city said it would "not share details on a removal timeline for the Robert E. Lee statue."

Proponents and opponents of the removal plan have butted heads as a part of sometimes heated protests at monument sites in the past.

Multiple protesters were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace earlier this month after a fight broke out at an event held to celebrate the removal of the Liberty Place monument. The demonstration attracted more than 700 people, including counter-protesters who carried Confederate flags.

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