US & Canada

New Orleans purges final Confederate statue

the empty plinth after the statue was taken down Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The statue was taken down after standing for 133 years

Masked city workers in New Orleans have removed the last of four monuments to the pro-slavery rebellion defeated in the US Civil War.

The 133-year-old statue depicted General Robert E Lee, the top military leader in the Confederacy, crossing his arms as he faced north towards his old enemy.

Critics say monuments to the Confederacy are racially offensive, but supporters say they are important symbols of the city's Southern heritage.

The three other statues were all removed at night to limit clashes.

The workers on the job were wearing bullet-proof vests as well as masks.

In a statement on Thursday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the condemned statues "were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the 'Cult of the Lost Cause', a movement recognised across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy."

Image copyright Reuters

Barricades went up overnight around the park where the 16ft (4.8m) statue was perched atop a 60ft column.

The cables for a nearby streetcar were also temporarily taken down to allow construction equipment into the park.

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Media captionThe statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was previously taken down in New Orleans

Before police cleared the area on Thursday, nearly 200 protesters gathered to voice support and opposition to the monument.

Demonstrations were mostly peaceful, local media report.

The only flashpoint was when a pro-removal protester snatched a Confederate battle flag.

One man was arrested for climbing on to the monument's pedestal and refusing to come down.

The monument to Lee was erected on 22 February 1884 - nearly 20 years after the Civil War ended.

On the day of the unveiling, a crowd of nearly 15,000 people came to watch, the Daily Picayune newspaper reported the next day.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Three statues have previously been removed while armed police kept guard

At the exact moment that the statue was unveiled, a 100-gun salute was fired, and "a mighty shout went up from the soldiers of the Confederacy", the Daily Picayune reported.

City officials say the monuments will be moved somewhere such as a museum where they can be "placed in their proper historical context from a dark period of American history".

But WWL-TV has found the removed monuments to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and PGT Beauregard in a city-owned scrap yard.

Image copyright WWL-TV
Image caption The Jefferson Davis memorial abuts old tyres in a New Orleans scrap yard

Supporters of the monuments say they are a cultural legacy that promotes heritage rather than racism.

The decision to remove the statues came in December 2015, six months after a white supremacist shot dead nine black worshippers at a South Carolina church.

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