Police still seeking two alleged Robert E. Lee bust vandals
Fort Myers Police are still searching for two men identified for vandalizing the controversial bust of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee located in downtown Fort Myers.
The bust of Lee was found lying on the ground next to its pedestal on Tuesday morning, March 12th along with the screws that were removed to loosen the bust. The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) carefully reattached the bust located on Monroe Street, where it has stood since 1966, the next day.
Members of the SCV have put forth efforts to defend keeping the bust, while others believe it is a symbol of racial hatred as Lee was the top military leader for the Confederate states during the Civil War. Civil rights activists along with others in opposition to the bust have worked to have the monument removed from its position in downtown Fort Myers.
“The Robert E. Lee statue controversy is fraught with controversy between two sides that will never agree,” said Glenn Miller, President of the Southwest Florida Historical Society.
The statue of Lee first took its place during a dedication ceremony on January 19th, 1966. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) funded the bust at $6,000 and dedicated it to honor the 159th anniversary of Lee’s birth.
In 2018, the president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) reached out to the UDC in order to come to an agreement on relocating the bust from its current position to one out of the public view.
“We are asking them to partner with us, let’s get an agreement, let’s get it relocated and get it out of public view to where we are not forced, as African-Americans or other right-minded citizens to view when we come downtown,” told president of the local NAACP to the Fort Myers News Press at the time.
The statue in downtown is not the only place named after General E. Lee though. When this county was established on May 2nd, 1887, it was also named after Lee, hence Lee County. Francis Asbury Hendry, who is responsible for Lee county’s name, decided on naming the county after General Lee for being a “distinguished and laudable character whom the world has esteemed and delights to honor.”
Many people of the Lee County community would disagree with Hendry and believe this act of vandalism was a moral obligation. “They likely see Lee as a traitor to his country who fought to not only defend slavery but to extend it to other states and territories,” said Miller. “On the other side are people who claim that the statue of Lee is merely a tribute to their heritage and has nothing to do with slavery.”
The students that were contacted at FGCU to share their thoughts on this controversy had no opinion the matter.
As the dispute continues, so does the investigation for the two men who loosened the screws that held the bust to its pedestal.