A judge ruled Tuesday that New Orleans can move forward with plans to take down its storied Confederate monuments, but the job is big, and won't be easy.
The City Council voted last month to take down public statues honoring Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, P.G.T Beauregard and a white militia group, months after a racially-charged mass shooting in South Carolina touched off a national debate over Confederate symbols.
Historians and preservationists balked, saying the iconic monuments are part of the city's past, but a federal judge's denial of their bid for an injunction means the markers can come down.
“That’s just verbiage and rhetoric. There are no specifics on plans for any of the monuments."
“We are pleased with the court’s sound ruling on this issue,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. “Once removed, the monuments will be stored in a city-owned warehouse until further plans can be developed for a private park or museum site where the monuments can be put in a fuller context. Additional details will be announced as they become available.”
City leaders told the New Orleans Advocate they would not remove the statues until the ruling, but did not provide further details. The contractor who was slated to do the work dropped the job after receiving death threats.
David Mahler, owner of H&O Investments in Baton Rouge, was set to take on the job, but backed out after employees received death threats and other vendors threatened to stop doing business with the firm. Despite his unconditional surrender, arsonists torched his $200,000 Lamborghini in a move he believes was related to the monuments.
“I don’t know if this has anything to do with a job he was recently CONTRACTED to do and decided not to take or if there is another reason, but it makes me sad that someone would go this far,” his wife wrote in a Facebook post last week. “The hate in this world is too thick so I’ll be the bigger person and only spread love back.”
It is now unclear who might take the statues down.
Tulane University Professor Richard Marksbury, who has long been an advocate for keeping all monuments in New Orleans intact, said opponents will try to stop the city in state court.
“[The judge] was suggesting that he didn’t believe that it should have been heard in federal court,” he said.
Marksbury is skeptical of the city's plan to exhibit the statues in another venue, and fears they could disappear or be damaged.
“That’s just verbiage and rhetoric,” he said to FoxNews.com. “There are no specifics on plans for any of the monuments."
When thousands of tourists descend upon the city next month, Marksbury predicts the statues will be standing, at Lee Circle, the entrance to City Park, at Mid-City and at the foot of Iberville Street.
“If the Lee Monument is not moved in two weeks, you have Mardi Gras -- where thousands of people will be near and around it of all races," Marksbury said. "It won’t be an issue. No one will say anything, because no one really cares.”