Threats, Arson Stifle Confederate Monument Removal In New Orleans

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The city of New Orleans still wants to take down their confederate monuments, but they can’t find a contractor willing to accept the risks. H&O Investments LLC had initially agreed to perform the work before death threats, business intimidation, and an apparent act of arson convinced them to drop the contract.

‘One day, several protesters came while H&O workers took measurements. Some of the protesters wore materials “with affiliation to white supremacy groups,” said Roy Maughan Jr., a lawyer for the contractor.

That same day, Maughan said, “a specific articulated threat” was phoned into city authorities warning workers at the monuments to leave for their safety. On Jan. 12, H&O sent the city a letter saying it was dropping out.

Then, on Jan. 19, a Lamborghini belonging to the owner of H&O Investments was set on fire. The sports car was parked outside his office near Baton Rouge, Maughan said.’

This is not at all new. In fact, it’s how white supremacy has always been protected in the South, especially Louisiana.

After the Civil War, mob violence and terrorism were the first tools of former Confederates who had been swept from power under the terms of the Reconstruction Act of 1867. The 1873 Colfax Massacre, in which whites used a small cannon to seize control of the Grant Parish courthouse and then murdered black freedmen who surrendered, was perhaps the worst episode of mass violence during the entire period. Arming themselves as if for a second major war, in 1874 the White League very nearly took over New Orleans and the state house during a bloody insurrection known as the Battle of Liberty Place.

When Reconstruction ended, whites across the former Confederacy moved quickly to disenfranchise the freedmen, remove black politicians from office, and reassert white political control of government. To salve the white conscience, apologists invented the ‘Lost Cause’ mythology, claiming that the entire period from 1861 to the present had been a struggle for ‘state’s rights.’ Virtually all of the thousands of Confederate monuments erected in public places since then have been symbols of that enduring falsehood — and the social/political supremacy of white over black that was installed and upheld by violence.

There is nothing about them that is not racist, and the “heritage” they represent is a blood-soaked lie. The excuses and distortions are the same now as they were then. White supremacy is marginally less violent, but only just so.

As he seeks to have those symbols removed from his majority-black city more than a century later, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been forced to close the contractor bidding process to the public.

When the names of companies interested in the work turned up on a city website, businesses were reportedly slammed with emails and telephone calls denouncing their involvement. The protest was organized at least in part by Save Our Circle, a group touting thousands of supporters who want a massive monument to Lee in Lee Circle preserved in the spot where it has stood since 1884.

Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine people at a historically-black AME church in Charleston, South Carolina last year sent a shock-wave of revulsion throughout the South, returning in counter-ripples of renewed Lost Cause mythology.

While some southern political leaders displayed courage by removing Confederate signs and symbols from their capitols, that moment appears to be over.

Meanwhile, hundreds of relatively small demonstrations have rallied to the Confederate standard and its enduring myth. Southern legislatures have responded by protecting the displays.

And in New Orleans, we can still see the enduring role that violence and threats play in upholding white supremacy for the 21st Century.

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