Death threats cause contractor to walk away from statue removal project
A city attorney told a federal judge Jan. 21, 2016 that death threats have prompted a contractor hired by the City of New Orleans to remove three monuments honoring Confederate leaders and the Liberty Monument to walk away from the project.
Rebecca Dietz told U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier during Thursday’s appeal of a December vote clearing the way for the four monuments to be removed from public spaces that Baton Rouge-based H&O Investments told the Landrieu administration that after receiving death threats it is no longer interested in the project.
The monuments of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard and the Battle of Liberty Place were targeted for removal last June at a gathering during which Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he hoped to have the monuments relocated before the city’s 300th anniversary in 2018. The council voted six-one last month to remove the statues with Councilwoman Stacy Head casting the sole dissenting vote.
The vote followed a series of town hall meetings during which residents were allowed to weigh in on the city’s efforts to remove the monuments.
While there was a renewed effort to remove the statues, local grassroots and civil rights organizations have been seeking removal of the monuments for more than five decades.
Just hours after the council vote, four groups filed an appeal in federal court, which was heard Jan. 14. City officials told Judge Barbier last week that H&O’s owner and his wife have both received threats at their Baton Rouge residence.
In a letter to the City of New Orleans, H&O Attorney Roy Maughan Jr. wrote, “These telephone calls, unkindly name-calling and public outrage expressed in various social media, as well as other area businesses threatening to cancel existing contracts with H&O, have precipitated H&O’s cessation of work.”
While numerous reports said that Judge Barber did not appear to be moved by the arguments presented by the four groups challenging the monuments’ removal, the judge said he would soon rule on the case after considering both sides’ arguments.