Hundreds of people marching through the streets of New Orleans on Sunday to celebrate the city's decision to remove a number of its Confederate monuments were confronted by white supremacists who were guarding a memorial to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Organized by the campaign Take 'Em Down NOLA, the demonstration was billed as a "ceremony to honor the historic occasion of four monuments to slavery coming down." Protesters rallied at Congo Square, a historic gathering place for slaves, before marching to Lee Circle where dozens of counter protesters were reportedly waiting for their arrival.
New Orleans police estimated that a total of 700 people took part in the rival actions. As the peaceful protest snaked through the streets of New Orleans, brass bands and second-line parade marchers walked behind a banner that read: "Bury white supremacy."
— Leslie Holder (@JustLeslieCat) May 7, 2017
"We feel it's important people know that these symbols of white supremacy coming down is a time to celebrate," said Angela Kinlaw, a Take 'Em Down NOLA organizer. The city is planning on removing the Lee statue, as well as three other Confederate monuments.
According to The Times-Picayune, the pro-Confederacy group stood in front of the Lee memorial behind a police line. Some brandished Confederate and other nationalist flags while others "carried shields slung across their backs. All the while, the theme from the movie, The Godfather, played from a nearby radio."
"Those advocating the removal of the statues chanted slogans like 'Go home racists,' and 'Hey hey, ho ho, white supremacy's got to go'," The Times-Picayune reported. "On the other side, a monument supporter shouted over a megaphone: 'We built this country. If you don't like it, there are plenty of other non-white countries you can go to!'"
— Robin McDowell (@timesnewrobin) May 7, 2017
White supremacists in New Orleans right now protecting Confederate monuments & calling Black people n**gers (while being protected by cops) pic.twitter.com/G38IXkbPxP
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According to reporting, a brief scuffle broke out and police arrested three people involved on charges of disturbing the peace, but as one observer put it, "Love outnumbered & outpartied hate in big way today."
Scuffle breaks out at Lee Circle. pic.twitter.com/Q4ksKmO6js
— Danny Monteverde (@DCMonteverde) May 7, 2017
— Dr. Jonas Chartock (@jonaschartock) May 7, 2017
Many within the pro-Confederacy group were outside agitators involved with groups such as American Freedom Keepers and the American Warrior Revolution, The Times-Picayune noted.
The city council's 2015 decision to remove the monuments came as "part of the national response after nine black parishioners were shot to death by an avowed racist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier that year," the Miami Herald notes. In addition to the Lee memorial, a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T Beauregard and a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis are also slated for removal. Last month, under the cover of darkness, the Liberty Monument, a 35-foot-tall granite obelisk dedicated to white supremacist rebels, was taken down.
However, as Take 'Em Down NOLA has pointed out, there are a number of Confederate memorials that will still stand and "serve as constant reminders of the past and present domination of black people by the rich white ruling class." The group is calling for "all symbols of white supremacy" to be removed.