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Coalition pushes to return Robert E. Lee bust to downtown Fort Myers

Posted at 11:10 PM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-22 05:41:09-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — “Much support is coming forth to mount a campaign to restore the memorial,” says David McAllister, spokesperson for "Save Southern Heritage Florida".

He says he believes a bust and pedestal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was wrongfully removed from its site on Monroe Street in Fort Myers.

The bust, which was on display for more than fifty years, was first removed in the summer of 2020 during protests about racial inequality.

Fort Myers City Council then voted to remove it permanently last year.

For McAllister, that was a step too far.

“I’m disgusted at the city council for what they did. I think they need to own up what they did which was to steal the monument from this place," says McAllister.

Jacqueline McMiller is the secretary for the Lee County NAACP, who disagrees with McAllister's assessment.

“I don’t see any reason why they would even make that allegation other than just to bring attention to them and to their need for attention as well,” says McMiller.

She agrees that the memorial should be on display, but in a different setting like a museum, so that people can learn its history - but doesn't think it should be in a public space.

“Our children need to see everything…the good, the bad, and the ugly,” says McMiller.

“It does not need to be right in the middle of the city where we have a multitude of different people and ethnicities that it can truly bring trauma.”

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson says that the bust being vandalized played a role in its removal.

“It was knocked off the pedestal and I believe it wound up in the possession of the Sons of Confederate Veterans," says Mayor Anderson.

For now, the pedestal remains locked away, with the city in the process of figuring out a place for it. But Mayor Anderson says its not likely to reappear on Monroe Street.

“I don’t believe that there’s an appetite amongst the council to have that pedestal returned to its original location," he says.

But for many of the people who showed up at Monday's press conference, they want the bust and the pedestal back in the City of Palms.

“They have civil rights too. They have a legacy and they’re entitled to honor their legacy just like anybody else."