CITIES: ‘If I had my gun on me, I’d shoot him’: the civil war over statues in New

As New Orleans begins to take down statues of Confederate leaders, angry protesters are flooding into the city to face off – and nuance is the first victim

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Cities is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation

By Matthew Teague in New Orleans for the Guardian / Monday 1 May 2017 07.00 EDT


The city of New Orleans surrendered early during the actual Civil War, after the Confederates left it poorly defended. This time, though, reinforcements from far afield have arrived to hoist the battle flag.

“I will chain myself to that son of a bitch before I let them tear it down,” Wilford Seymour said Thursday, waving a hand toward a statue of General PGT Beauregard mounted in a bronze saddle. “By God I will ride that horse myself.”

Seymour had driven overnight from Arkansas, as soon as he got word that the city of New Orleans was pulling down some of its Confederate monuments. The city’s first maneuver was a covert one, carried out at 3am Monday. A crew wearing masks and bulletproof vests, guarded by snipers overhead, dismantled a monument to the Battle of Liberty Place. It was the most obvious of four monuments marked for removal, since it commemorated an ignoble post-war uprising by white supremacists who didn’t like the direction New Orleans was headed.

The monument’s removal was timed for maximum symbolism. Monday was the day some Southern states celebrate as Confederate Memorial Day.

The push to remove the monuments is the latest skirmish in a conflict that started almost two years ago. That’s when Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, massacred nine black members of Mother Emmanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. In the days after the shooting, photos emerged of Roof posing with his collection of Confederate battle flags, which led to the removal of such a flag from atop the South Carolina statehouse.

The Robert E Lee statue at Lee Circle in New Orleans.