'Death threats,' 'threatening calls' prompt firm tasked with removing Confederate monuments to quit

The company hired to remove four New Orleans monuments related to the Confederacy has backed out of that project, after the owner and his wife received death threats and threatening calls, according to a recently filed court document.

An attorney for the company, Baton Rouge-based H&O Investments, said in a letter to city officials on Tuesday that after H&O made preparations to remove the controversial monuments, its offices received multiple telephone complaints, “including death threats personally directed to [company owner] David Mahler, and his staff, in addition to threatening calls received by his wife at their residence.”

Outrage expressed on social media has only added to the tumult, as have area businesses that have apparently threatened to cancel their existing contracts with H&O should it proceed with removing the monuments, attorney Roy Maughan, Jr. wrote.

“Unfortunately, due to these circumstances, H&O is unable to perform the tasks originally assigned in association with the removal of any monuments for the City of New Orleans,” Maughan wrote. “Please feel free to assign this project to another contractor at your earliest opportunity.”

City officials did not immediately identify a new firm for the project Thursday.

Letter from H&O

The city on Wednesday added the letter to a growing list of documents a U.S. District Court judge will consider, as that judge decides whether to temporarily prohibit the removal of the monuments until a legal showdown plays out. Four groups — the Monumental Task Committee, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana and Beauregard Camp No. 130. — filed suit in federal court in December, just hours after the City Council backed Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to remove the statues. The two sides presented arguments to District Judge Carl Barbier Thursday. Barbier said he would rule on the matter at a later time.

The monuments include statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Lee Circle, Confederate President Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at the entrance to City Park, as well as a monument on Iberville Street near the river honoring the so-called Battle of Liberty Place, an 1874 rebellion against the state’s biracial Reconstruction-era government by a group of former Confederates seeking to restore white “home rule.”

The council’s 6-1 vote came after months of emotional debate, which was initiated by Landrieu after a white supremacist shot nine people in a South Carolina church in June.

The Landrieu administration confirmed this week that it had chosen H&O, one of the contractors in a pool of firms pre-approved for small and emergency city projects, after H&O crews were spotted taking measurements of the Jefferson Davis monument.

The city can’t actually remove the monuments until Barbier rules on the request for a temporary injunction. The measurements appear to have been mere preparations.

Maughan, H&O’s attorney, said Thursday that no other job his client has done for the city has sparked such a reaction.

“This is just another job that they were tasked with,” he said. “When they went out to survey it, they didn’t have any idea that it was such an intense matter of public interest.”

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.

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