In the early evening hours on Tuesday, the NOPD began erecting barricades and blocking vehicular access at the point where City Park Avenue and Carrollton Avenue merge into Wisner Boulevard where the traffic circle there hosted the equestrian statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard for just over a century.
After the take-downs of the Battle of Liberty Place obelisk and the statue of Jefferson Davis, the mayor of New Orleans had come for the creole general.
Arriving at the scene at about 9:00 PM, a small crowd had gathered along the bank of Bayou St. John at Esplanade.
As they did at the Lee Circle protest, the police created an alley of barricades to separate the two sides, though unlike that event, partisans in both camps made a point of crossing over to the other side’s area to more directly confront the opposition.
Unlike the Lee Circle march and rallies, a few public figures made appearances, one Republican the other a Democrat, though not as active participants but to watch the removal and the crowds. Once things got froggy, both took their leave.
The large crane needed to lift the gigantic statue off its pedestal and on to a vehicle was in place though from the distance of the opposite bank of the bayou, the individuals charged with the removal seemed overwhelmed for a project of this scale. At one point they broke out the bubble wrap, only to later take it off. The workers managed to run straps under the monument and connect them to the crane’s hook, though there was no movement- just a tightening of the straps.
For the most part, things were relatively quiet. The opponents brought out their Confederate and Trump flags with a smattering of stars and stripes while the predominantly white (again!) crowd on the opposite side of the barricades sipped their booze and loitered.
I was content to remain a silent witness to it all until one of the “remove” crowd boasted about the history of Bayou St. John as it was the waterway the British used to invade New Orleans during the War of 1812. After explaining the fallacy of that statement, said bowdlerizer got quiet and didn’t open his mouth again until he decided to taunt an emaciated looking member of the pro-monuments camp, calling him a scarecrow and singing the character’s song from the Wizard of Oz.
At this point we were just at the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road of absurdity.
A drunk pro-monument woman engaged in a heated argument with a black representative of the Take Em Down side. Folks tried to defuse the situation though it began to escalate and spread.
And the Malcolm Suber and his group showed up to make it a party. Not content with just screaming profanities and insults from opposite sides of the barricades, a few crossed over to get in people’s faces before police intervened.
But that was the warm up act.
The second news crews covering the event went live, those gathered went into full Jerry Springer mode.
I was embarrassed for everyone at this point as a gleeful media tried to record the maximum amount of friction. Seriously, I am convinced that the media is what’s largely wrong in society as it summons out the worst n us.
Once the klieg lights were turned off, folks began to quiet down again; everyone had received the snippet of fame.
The anti-monument protestors were mostly young and white and were reveling in their moment of state sanctioned rage.
While the workers continued to fiddle with the straps and practice raising the statue for hours, things really got surreal at 1 AM when a brass band made its way up Elysian Fields to entertain the protesters. The police didn’t seem to mind the unpermitted “parade” as one cop said, he’d rather see folks dance than riot. Fair enough. Surely the neighbors weren’t going to get any sleep anyway.
While the anti-monuments people danced badly I noticed two young women dashing towards a corner of the barricades. At first it looked like they had a handful of small American flags, which were conspicuously missing from the very side screaming TREASON.
A few moments later I saw the NOPD rush into the crowd as I saw flames flickering up from the streets. They didn’t bring those flags to hand out but to burn.
The police grabbed the perps, one of whom was wearing a “Trump is a Cunt” t-shirt, and hauled them over to their onsite station There’s your representatives of the Take ‘Em Down crowd- radicals who hate the United States as much as they hate the Confederacy. And nobody on that side seemed very troubled by their act of flag desecration.
With the hour being late and the workers still fiddling with Beauregard’s straps, I decided to call it a night. I had seen enough of the worst among us, brought out from the dark hearts, the shadows and from other time zones courtesy of Mitch Landrieu.