NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hundreds of people turned out Saturday in New Orleans historic French Quarter to protest a statue of Andrew Jackson and Confederate monuments in the city.
New Orleans has been struggling with what to do with a number of Confederate-era monuments in the city. The City Council voted last year to remove four of the monuments after heated public meetings but the effort has been stalled in the courts. A major hearing on their removal is slated for Wednesday.
Take Em Down Nola, a group that has been advocating for the removal of monuments it describes as being linked to the city's white supremacist history, called for a demonstration Saturday to take down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square to protest the slow progress of taking down the Confederate monuments.
The Jackson statue is not one of the four Confederate monuments that the council voted to remove. Jackson is considered a key figure for leading the defense of the city in an 1815 battle against the British. But Michael Quess Moore, one of the group's organizers, said Jackson was also a slave-owner who as president signed the controversial Indian Removal Act.
"We are acting against white supremacist monuments," said Moore. "The majority of the city is not reflected by these monuments."
The Advocate newspaper estimated that about 200 people took part in the march to Jackson Square where they were met by dozens of police officers who had set up barricades around the monument.
"I want to erect statues that bring people together," said one of the protesters Ameer Baraka.
Shortly before the protesters arrived, white supremacist David Duke and a small group of supporters converged on the square, calling for the statue to be protected.
As Duke, who is also running for Senate, talked to supporters he was heckled by bystanders.
"I am here to defend our American heritage. Our Louisiana heritage and our New Orleans heritage," he said.
The protests were largely peaceful although a few fights broke out between demonstrators. WWL-TV reported that seven people were arrested.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report.