White supremacists in New Orleans right now protecting Confederate monuments & calling Black people n**gers (while being protected by cops) pic.twitter.com/G38IXkbPxP— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) May 8, 2017
Supporters and opponents of removing New Orleans' Confederate monuments clashed on Sunday at Lee Circle where the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands.
The rally, to call for the removal of all statues and street and school names that honor white supremacists, was organized by Take ‘Em Down NOLA, whose demonstrators were holding signs including “end white supremacy,” “power to the people,” and “justice for Alton.” Most of them came wearing light, summer clothes.
Pro-monument protesters arrived at Lee Circle rearing for a fight. The white supremacists wore body armor, biker leather, wooden shields and helmets and carried bats and flags that could easily be improvised as clubs for hitting people. The group had come in response to the calls for far-right organizations that called the march “The Battle of New Orleans” and urged their neo-Nazi followers to employ the same violent tactics seen at a protest in Berkeley, California, last month.
“This is not your f***ing country. You were born in Africa, you n*****. F*** you, n*****, n*****, n*****,” shouted a demented white supremacist to a black woman at one point.
Another protester shouted there would be “antifa blood” on the end of his flagstaff by the end of the day.
“There’s going to be no mercy today,” he said.
Some other white supremacists held signs, “I’m only here for the violence.”
Can't see it in that pic, but guy behind him has an SS/swastika shirt on— Jeff Adelson (@jadelson) May 7, 2017
There's the SS shirt pic.twitter.com/UxGUBlAcRq— Jeff Adelson (@jadelson) May 7, 2017
Rhetoric like this is hardly freedom of speech. This is hate speech.
However, what’s surprising is the fact that none of the police officers, who formed a barricade between the two protesting crowds, ordered the white supremacists to tamp down on their incendiary rhetoric, which was basically a hate crime.
The tense protests came amid a debate about the future of the Jim Crow-era monument. In December 2015, the New Orleans City Council voted to remove the Lee monument and three other symbols of the Confederacy from public spaces. Proponents of the memorials fought a legal case to save them, but lost.
However, city officials have refused to provide precise date on when the statues would be removed because of threats made against the contractors who would do so. When the Battle of Liberty Place monument came down two weeks ago, contractors did the work in the middle of the night wearing Kevlar and face masks.