It's become a pattern. Word spread that the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee would be pried from its perch high above downtown New Orleans early Friday (May 18). It would be the last of four such extractions of Confederate monuments in New Orleans this spring.
As usual, a cadre of Confederate monument supporters symbolically stood guard late Thursday night, flags waving, while an assembly of those in favor of removal gathered to celebrate the moment. Members of the small crowd on the north face of the monument mount exchanged taunts and engaged in arguments that sometimes harked back to events more than a century-and-a-half ago.
At roughly 10:30, the simmering sentiments almost came to a boil, when a monument supporter and an anti-monument onlooker dramatically stripped off their shirts and stood ready to fight. As camera phones captured the standoff, the potential combatants cooled off.
One of the two, who gave his name as Patches, said that Lee deserved his loyalty because the general was his distant cousin. He said he fears that all monuments are in jeopardy.
"Where's it going to stop," he asked, "the Statue of Liberty? Who wins?"
The other near-combatant, Dewayne Murphy, said that he didn't hate Patches or the other pro-monument activists. He said that, honestly, the Lee monument never especially troubled him, but since it's being removed, he suggested a replacement.
"They need to put a heart up there," he said. "The city needs more love."
A vocal pro-monument activist cheerfully suggested that the removal might be postponed because of bad weather. If there's a lightning strike within 15 miles, he asserted, OSHA would disallow the crane.
Gesturing at the statue above, an anti-monument protester named Albert White drew chuckles and angry glares as he chanted "Nanny, nanny, boo, boo, he's got to go too."
Over at the Circle Bar, a mere hundred feet or so from the monument, it was a surprisingly slow night. A patron speculated that the city might have tired of the monument removal spectacle.
Not everyone in attendance at the duel demonstration at the monument was focused on the Confederate icon controversy. A man in a sheer yellow body stocking cavorted with an American flag at the base of the monument's column. David Wood explained that his real motive for attending was to call attention to the deadly opiate epidemic in the United States.
Wood, from Slidell, also had a sentimental motive. He said that he and his mother used to watch Mardi Gras parades at Lee Circle. When she died in October, he mixed her ashes with epoxy and glued three doubloons to the pavement in her honor. His presence at the activity at the Lee monument was an acknowledgement of her memory, he said.
At roughly 11:30 a rhythmic pounding echoed off the Lee Circle architecture, as pro-removal activists drummed in the faces of the monument supporters.
At midnight, according to witnesses, the police escorted a man away, who had climbed onto the platform beneath the monument column, which had been cordoned off with barricades.
Jennifer Jones, who is regularly seen athletically dancing beneath her umbrella at the head of parades, said she'd come to the Circle to be a part of history. She is in favor of the removal.
"I know what I feel and I feel that it's right," she said of the removal. "The fact that there's so much hatred is amazing."
"They feel lie they've been slapped down," she said, referring to the pro-monument protesters. "We've been slapped down for hundreds of years."
Through Thursday night, word reached demonstrators on both sides that the city planned to postpone the removal until daylight on Friday. Some drifted off, but many hung on.