By Jonathan Bachman
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans authorities dismantled a statue honoring president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis amid cries by protesters waving Confederate flags and cheers from a group that said the monument glorified racism in the U.S. South.
Police watched the two groups taunt each other early on Thursday as crews used a crane to pluck the 8-foot (2.4 m) bronze statue from the granite pedestal where it had sat for more than a century on a piece of land near an intersection in the Mid-City neighborhood.
"I am here to witness this debacle, taking down this 106-year-old beautiful monument," said Pierre McGraw, president of the Monumental Task Committee, which restored the statue as one of its first projects 29 years ago. "It hurts a lot."
Quess Moore said he came out "to celebrate the victory in the battle against white supremacy, particularly in New Orleans."
Confederacy statues and flags 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.
Critics of the monuments say they foster racism by celebrating leaders of the Confederacy in the pro-slavery South during the U.S. Civil War.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu posted photos on Twitter of the removal of the Jefferson Davis Monument.
"This historic moment is an opportunity to join together as one city and redefine our future," Landrieu tweeted.
McGraw's committee rejected that, saying in a statement that the mayor "cannot be inclusive, tolerant, or diverse when he is erasing a very specific and undeniable part of New Orleans' history."
A committee member sued on Monday to stop the city from removing a statue of Confederate States Army General P.G.T. Beauregard.
The Davis monument had been frequently vandalized, according to the New Orleans Historical website that showed a photo of the words "slave owner" sprayed in red paint on its base.
The statue will be stored in a city warehouse until a permanent location can be determined, officials said.
The Davis and Beauregard monuments are among four in New Orleans that critics have been pushing to have dismantled. In 2015, the city decided to take them down, and a U.S. appeals court ruled in March that it had the right to proceed.
The first of the monuments was removed last month.
On Sunday, dozens of supporters of the monuments clashed with hundreds of demonstrators near the site of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee that is also slated for removal.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Toby Chopra and Lisa Von Ahn)