Jefferson Davis served as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, though his legacy as rebel leader does not exactly shine in the historical record.Â The Civil War Trust notes that âDavisâ popularity and effectiveness were not enhanced by the growing numbers of Confederate defeats,â and Davis was captured in the waning days of the war by Union soldiers after he had fled the Confederate capital in Richmond.
Still, Davis is celebrated in pockets of the South for his part in the Confederate cause, with highways, high schools and more named in his honor.
For more than 100 years, there was also a prominent statue of Davis in New Orleans.
But that changed overnight, as theÂ statue was removed from its longtime perch â along Jefferson Davis Parkway, no less â following days of tension and protests.
As the 116-year-old statue came down just after 5 a.m. local time Thursday, âa cheer went up from some of the dozens of protesters on the scene who have been pushing for the monumentâs removal,âÂ the Associated Press reported. âIt was then lowered behind trucks encircled around the monumentâs base and out of view of media gathered on the scene.â
It was the second monument to rebelÂ heritage to come down in New Orleans in the past month; in late April,Â workers dismantled theÂ Battle of Liberty Place monument, which honored members of the Crescent City White LeagueÂ who died trying to overthrow the New Orleans governmentÂ after the Civil War.
âThree weeks ago we began the process of removing statues erected to honor the âLost Cause of the Confederacy,ââÂ Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) said.Â âThis morning we continue our march to reconciliation by removing the Jefferson Davis Confederate statue from its pedestal of reverence.â
â Mitch Landrieu (@MayorLandrieu) May 11, 2017
The Davis statue and the Liberty Place monument were orderedÂ removed in 2015,Â after city meetings thatÂ the Times-Picayune described as rowdyÂ and sometimes racially divided. Two otherÂ memorials to rebel leaders â Gens.Â Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard â have also been condemned, though the city has not saidÂ when they willÂ be removed.
City officials have refused to provide precise dates, because of threats made against contractors involved in removing the statues. The Liberty Place monument was taken down by masked workers operating under the cover of darkness â andÂ the protection of police snipers
The removal process has been stalled in courts, though a last-ditch effort to block the removal of the Beauregard monument was rejected Wednesday by a Louisiana judge, the AP reported.
âThis has gone on an inordinate amount of time,â Judge Kern Reese said as he outlined reasons for his refusal to grant an injunction protecting the statue of Gen. P. G. T Beauregard. It was a reference to state and federal court battles that delayed removal of the Beauregard monument and three others for more than a year.
The huge bronze image of Beauregard on horseback sits in the center of a traffic circle at the entrance to New Orleans City Park. Those who donât want it removed argued that it belongs to a park board and, therefore, the city has no authority to remove it.
Reeseâs rejection of an injunction means the city can remove the statue pending further proceedings in his court. Richard Marksbury, a New Orleans resident and monument supporter, said he may go to an appeal court to block removal.
Tensions have been high as the city continued preparations to topple more monuments.
ScenesÂ around the cityâs last fewÂ Confederate statuesÂ had takenÂ on a certain battlefield air since Landrieu ordered one dismantled, without advance public notice, and promised the others would soon fall too.
And sympathizersÂ of that âlost causeâÂ haveÂ risen up in response.
âA man points at a machine gun held by a statue supporterâ was how the New Orleans Times-Picayune captioned a recent photo from a protective vigil around the monumentÂ to Davis.
âThe Battle of New Orleans,â they call it â the statuesâ defenders and detractors alike.
But on Sunday,Â asÂ plans for rival demonstrations provoked pleas ofÂ âreinforcementsâÂ from across the country, the scene remained largely nonviolent.
Some of those adversaries marched in a second-line parade to the traffic circle where Leeâs statue stands â centurion-like, stationed above the tree line atop a white stone pedestal â to protest the monumentâs place in the circle and to bury Leeâs place in history, which some revere and others revile. They were met by Confederate-flag wavers keeping vigil there, some wearing riot gear or motorcycle helmets.
Three people were arrested, all men defending the monuments and charged with disturbing the peace after getting into a skirmish.
At Lee Circle, there was some yelling between the pro-monument and anti-monument crowds and some icy stares. Much of the fury and the verbal challenges came from the monument defenders, who appeared to be outnumbered by the second-line participants by at least two to one.
Four days later, as the Davis statue was coming down, an op-ed by LandrieuÂ was published on The Washington Postâs website.
âGetting here wasnât easy,â wrote the majority-black cityâs first white mayor since the 1970s. âIt took a two-year review process, a City Council vote and victories over multiple legal challenges. The original firmÂ weâd hired to remove the monuments backed out after receiving death threats and having one of his cars set ablaze. Nearly every heavy-crane company in southern Louisiana has received threats from opponents. Some have likened these monuments to other monuments around the world from bygone eras, and have argued that civic resources would be better spent trying to educate the public about the history they embody. Respectfully, thatâs not the point. As mayor, I must consider their impact on our entire city. Itâs my job to chart the course ahead, not simply to venerate the past.â
He added:Â âThe record is clear: New Orleansâs Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were erected with the goal of rewriting history to glorify the Confederacy and perpetuate the idea of white supremacy. These monuments stand not as mournful markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in reverence of it. They are an inaccurate recitation of our past, an affront to our present and a poor prescription for our future.
âThe right course, then, is to excise these symbols of injustice.â
This post has been updated.