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The Latest: Last Confederate monument removed in New Orleans

CORRECTS TITLE FROM PRESIDENT TO GENERAL Workers prepare to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee, former general of the Confederacy, which stands in Lee Circle in New Orleans, Friday, May 19, 2017. The city is completing the Southern city's removal of four Confederate-related statues that some called divisive. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Latest on the removal of Confederate-related monuments from New Orleans (all times local):

6 p.m.

Workers in New Orleans have removed the last of four monuments to Confederate-era figures — a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The statue was lifted from its pedestal early Friday evening, capping a day in which hundreds gathered to gawk in a somewhat festive atmosphere.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu had proposed the removal of the monuments after the 2015 massacre of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church. The gunman was an avowed racist who brandished Confederate battle flags in photos. The mass shooting recharged debate over whether Confederate emblems represent racism or an honorable heritage

Landrieu said Friday afternoon that the monuments represent a “sanitized” view of the Confederacy. He added that they were erected years after the Civil War ended by people who wanted to show that white supremacy still held sway in the city.

The City Council approved Landrieu’s proposal to remove the monuments in 2015.

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4 p.m.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has declared that the Confederacy was “on the wrong side of humanity” as he delivered a speech on the city’s decision to remove four Confederate monuments from public view.

Friday afternoon’s speech came as workers continued their efforts to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the towering pedestal it has occupied on a New Orleans traffic circle since 1884.

The City Council approved Landrieu’s proposal to remove the monuments in 2015.

Landrieu said Friday that the monuments represent a “sanitized” view of the Confederacy. He added that they were erected years after the Civil War ended by people who wanted to show that white supremacy still held sway in the city.

“These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history,” Landrieu said. “These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for.”

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2:20 pm.

Workers backed by a crane have tied ropes around a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which has perched atop a 60-foot (18 meter)-high pedestal in a traffic circle where it has been since 1884. Friday’s removal effort comes after a long and divisive battle over whether old South emblems represent racism or an honorable heritage.

While many were supportive of removal, opinions varied widely in the crowd of hundreds that gathered to watch Friday.

Many said it was time for the statue to come down. But Frank Varela Jr., a New Orleans native carrying an American flag, said he thought Lee should stay up as “a part of the South.”

“It’s part of history. It’s a part of my heritage,” said Varela. “I was born and raised here. It’s been here all my life … When we came back from Katrina it was here. It’s survived every hurricane this city has ever seen.”

Police on horseback lined up nearby as a security precaution and traffic was diverted away from the area. But those protesters opposed to removal were few as the removal work wore on Friday afternoon — though some shouted against it from the crowd.

For many others, it was a time for festivities. Bystander Brittnie Grasmick danced to the song “Another One Bites the Dust.” Some brought out lawn chairs to watch, entertained by a trumpeter who played “Dixie” — but in a minor key.

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10:45 a.m.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says taking down a prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will allow his city to “heal and become the city we always should have been.”

Lee’s statue comes down Friday, the last of four Confederate-related statues to be removed from public property in the Louisiana city.

Landrieu plans to address city residents later in the afternoon. He says in an interview with The Associated Press that “we don’t want these statues in places of reverence; they need to be in places of remembrance.”

Three other Confederacy-related statues were removed at night. The mayor says the Lee statue is coming down in the daytime because officials couldn’t guarantee the safety of construction workers from nearby electrical lines if they worked at night.

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9:45 a.m.

About 100 people were on hand as a huge crane arrived at the New Orleans monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

A statue of Lee was slated for removal Friday from atop a 60-foot-high pedestal where it was been since 1884. It’s the last of four monuments to Confederate-era figures the city is removing.

Opinions on the removal varied and crossed racial lines.

A racially mixed group held signs supporting removal.

One onlooker, John Renner, a white man and an Illinois native, said the statue should remain because it represents history.

Al Kennedy, also white and a former New Orleans school board member, supported removal. Kennedy says he loves his native South. Of the Confederate past, he says: “It’s my history, but it’s not my heritage.”

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8:15 a.m.

The city of New Orleans is taking down a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, completing the Southern city’s removal of four Confederate-related statues that some called divisive.

Lee commanded Confederate armies against the United States in the Civil War and is a revered figure among supporters of the old South. But the Louisiana city will take down a prominent statue of Lee on Friday.

City officials are trying to divorce New Orleans from symbols celebrating the Confederacy. Many Southern areas have done the same since nine black parishioners were fatally shot in 2015 by an avowed racist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

New Orleans has already removed statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Crews also took down a monument memorializing a deadly white supremacist uprising in 1874.

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