NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The city of New Orleans began removing monuments to the Confederate era declared a public nuisance early Monday morning.
The statues from the Confederate era, have been a flashpoint of contention since protestors first demanded their removal.
The mayor is making the move now because of death threats and intimidation. He wants to minimize city disruption.
The first to come was the Liberty Monument, which the mayor called "the most offensive of the four" and said it was erected to "revere white supremacy."
"If there was ever a statue that needed to be taken down, it's that one," he said.
Men clad in masks, driving trucks with the logos covered by tape began taking down Liberty Monument around 1:30 a.m. The license plates had also been taken off of the vehicles.
The first section of the monument was taken down around 3 a.m.
People concerned about the planned removal of Confederate monuments held a vigil in Mid-City early Monday morning. Over two-dozen people stood near the Jefferson Davis statue overnight Sunday with lit candles in hand, expressing their concerns about the city's plans.
They say were worried that the city may move in early Monday morning to begin tearing down statues of Robert E Lee, Jefferson Davis, PGT Beauregard and the Battle of Liberty Place.
Numerous courts have said the city has the authority to tear down the monuments, but so far the city has not confirmed plans to do so.
The City Council approved the removal of the statues in 2015, but the city had not come up with all the money to do the job, estimated at around $700,000. Landrieu announced Monday morning the city now has private funding to move all four statues.
A federal appeals court ruled in March that the monuments could be taken down, ending a bitter battle between people who wanted them to stay in place because of historical significance.
"The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion and tolerance," Landrieu said. "Relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, blame or retaliation.
After initially moving the statues to storage, the city will seek a museum or other facility to relocate the statue.
The other statues are slated to be taken down in the following days.
The Liberty Monument was erected in 1891 in honor of the Battle of Liberty Place. The monument was meant to honor members of the White League who died during the fight.
The Monumental Task Committee issued a statement ahead of a press conference called by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu scheduled for 8 a.m.
"The Monumental Task Committee has opposed moving and removing monuments throughout its 29 years. This removal completely lacks basic government transparency. The whole process has been flawed since the beginning, and this secretive removal under the cloak of darkness, outside of the public bid, masked contractors, and using unidentified money wreaks of atrocious government. People across Louisiana should be concerned over what will disappear next," said Pierre McGraw, MTC president. "MTC has always encouraged tolerance and respect for all monuments, adding contextualization to existing historic artworks, and building new monuments to further tell Louisiana's stories."