NEW ORLEANS – There’s new information on a protest to tear down the Statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square. Eyewitness News learned that former Klansman David Duke plans on attending Saturday’s protest.
The Senate Candidate released a robo call late Friday night, asking people to join him and for his support.
A day before a group of protesters planned to march on Jackson Square with the intention of yanking the statue of the nation’s seventh president and the hero of the Battle of New Orleans off its pedestal, Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said his officers were planning to allow for a safe demonstration but were also planning for a possible counter-protest.
“We are treating this as a tactical issue,” Harrison said Friday evening during a press briefing outside of NOPD headquarters. “Normally we would allow people to just congregate, demonstrate and we give them the space. But because we have information to suggest there’s a higher need for police visibility, we’re going to act on that.”
A group of activists backing plans to remove several local monuments to the Confederacy vowed last week to pull down the Jackson statue, partially because of a perceived delay in taking down the monuments and since Jackson was a known slave owner and as president was responsible for the removal of Native American groups living in the Southeast.
But Harrison said officers would not allow anyone to damage any property during Saturday’s protest.
“We do want to make clear … we will protect everybody’s right to demonstrate peacefully. We will not allow anyone to destroy or defame anybody’s property,” Harrison said. “We will take the necessary action if we need to do so.”
While Harrison did not specify what group was planning to show up in opposition to Take 'Em Down, the group planning the protest, former KKK Grand Wizard and current senatorial candidate David Duke posted on his website he would be at Jackson Square in an effort to stop the removal.
Take 'Em Down representatives on Friday confirmed to Eyewitness News that they had received "threats" in recent days from Duke supporters.
It’s been nine months since the City Council voted 6-1 to allow statues that honor Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, and a militia known as the White League to be removed.
However, a lawsuit filed in federal court stopped that process. The protest will happen days before judges of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals hear arguments about whether to lift an order that halted the monuments’ removal.
On Thursday, those who organized the protest gathered on the steps of City Hall to ask the Police Department to not block their actions on Saturday.
"We understand the city and the Police Department are able to prevent us" from taking down the statue," said Malcolm Suber, one of the lead organizers of the group, as he stood in front of a group of about 20 supporters. "But we are asking them to step aside."
Harrison said that while people will be free to gather and voice their opinions, charges – either municipal or state -- could be filed against anyone who tries to damage the Jackson statue.
“Our officers are highly trained, very skilled at allowing citizens to demonstrate, exercise their First Amendment right. We will certainly do that again tomorrow.”
Asked if he thinks people armed with ropes could actually remove the statue of Jackson on his horse, Harrison had a brief answer: “I’m not an engineer.”
WWL-TV reporter Caresse Jackman and New Orleans Advocate staff writer Jeff Adelson contributed to this report.