Despite weeks of opposition from pro-monument groups, New Orleans began the process of removing four controversial confederate statues. A move that comes as some Southern states celebrated Confederate Memorial Day, although Louisiana is not among them.

Under the cover of darkness, workers wearing masks and tactical vests arrived at New Orleans’ Battle of Liberty Place monument to take it down. Police snipers were positioned on nearby rooftops, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and the trucks and equipment used in the operation had company names covered by cardboard and tape.

The Battle of Liberty Place monument was erected in 1891 to mark a deadly fight between members of the “Crescent City White League” — a group opposed to the city’s biracial police force and state militia after the Civil War — and officers from that police force. The monument was slowly taken apart as supporters and opponents of the action gathered nearby amid a strong police presence.

Many watching opposed the cloud of secrecy surrounding the removals and questioned why something that should be celebrated is being hidden.

“This should be a celebration but instead this is done clandestinely. They got the workers who are taking it down dressed in black jackets, helmets and their faces are covered, to us that’s cowardice,” one person there told CNN affiliate WVUE-TV.

One reason for the secrecy could be the to protect workers against threats many contractors in the city received. Police barricades protected the workers, who removed the Battle of Liberty Place monument piece by piece. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the removal of the monuments should not be seen as a political move or retaliation against a specific group.

“This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile — and most importantly — choose a better future,” Landrieu said.

Three other Confederate monuments in New Orleans are set to be removed in the near future – The Robert E. Lee Monument, Jefferson Davis Statue and the P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue.

The statues will be placed in storage while the city finds a museum or another facility for them, according to officials.