NEW ORLEANS -- At least two statues of prominent historical figures were pulled from their pedestals in New Orleans and another has been covered with red spray paint, authorities said Friday.
Statues of John McDonogh, who built a fortune on slave labor and left it to educating children, and Charles Didier Dreux, the first Confederate officer killed in the Civil War, were toppled late Thursday. A monument celebrating educator and philanthropist Sophie B. Wright was spray-painted with “BLM,” which stands for Black Lives Matter, and a hood placed over that statue's head.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration said those responsible “will face consequences.”
“As we have said throughout these events: the administration is in complete support of peaceful demonstrations and of our people making their voices heard,” Cantrell spokesman Beau Tidwell said in an emailed statement to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. “But the destruction and vandalism of City property will not be tolerated. These incidents will be fully investigated and those responsible will face consequences.”
Take ‘Em Down and other groups have called for the removal of all three statues.
Tidwell did not immediately respond to questions about precautions or plans for these and other statues in the city. He also did not say where Cantrell stands on removing them.
Wright, the daughter of a Confederate soldier, was also a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Dreux was a district attorney and state lawmaker before the Civil War, and his stone bust with its nose broken off has been a frequent target for vandalism.
McDonogh got his start as a trader of merchandise and, using other people's money, grew his wealth to include multiple sugar plantations and nearly 200 slaves. He left most of his fortune to the cities of Baltimore and New Orleans to build public schools for white and freed Black children. More than 30 public schools were built in New Orleans because of his donation.
In addition to the large statue in Lafayette Square, across from Gallier Hall, that was torn down on Thursday, a bust of McDonogh across from City Hall was knocked over and thrown in the Mississippi River during a protest last month. The bust was later recovered and turned over to the city, which has not commented on its future.