By Jonathan Bachman
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – New Orleans will remove a statue on Friday of Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee, the last of four monuments the city is taking down because they have been deemed racially offensive, officials said.
Since May 11, crews have removed monuments to Jefferson Davis, president of the pro-slavery Confederacy and P.G.T. Beauregard, a Confederate general.
Last month, a monument was taken down that commemorated an 1874 attack on the racially integrated city police and state militia by a white supremacist group called the “Crescent City White League”.
Crews will remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, who was the top military leader in the Confederacy, on Friday sometime after 9 a.m., the city said in a statement.
Earlier this month, dozens of supporters of the monuments clashed with hundreds of demonstrators near the site of the Robert E. Lee statue.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is expected to give a speech marking the removal of the last of the four monuments on Friday afternoon.
The monuments that pay homage to the Confederacy, made up of states which attempted to preserve slavery in the South and secede from the United States in the Civil War of 1861 to 1865, have been denounced by critics as an affront to the ideals of multi-racial tolerance and diversity in the majority-black Louisiana city.
But doing away with them has met with staunch resistance from groups who argue the statues are nevertheless important symbols of the city’s Southern heritage.
Statues and flags honoring the Confederacy have been removed from public spaces across the United States since 2015, after a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church.
In 2015, New Orleans decided to take down the four monuments, and a U.S. appeals court ruled in March that it had the right to proceed.
(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Catherine Evans)