• Alex Nelson

Confederate relic stolen from cemetery could become toilet, says White Lies Matter

The nationwide debate over the fate of Confederate monuments has taken a surprising turn in Alabama. Last month, White Lies Matter, a self-described "anti-racist action group," crept into Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama under the cover of night and removed a 128-year-old stone chair valued at $500,000. The group is now threatening to turn the monument into a toilet if their demands are not met.

The Jefferson Davis Memorial Chair was dedicated to the former president of the Confederacy in 1893 by the Ladies of Selma. Prior to its theft, the chair sat in Confederate Circle, an acre-sized plot of land in Old Live Oak Cemetery that holds the graves of Confederate soldiers. Although there is some dispute about who owns Confederate Circle, a sign in front of the entrance to the area indicates that it is owned and maintained by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). Founded in 1894 the UDC says its purpose is to “honor the memory of those who served and those who fell in the service of the Confederate States of America.” Selma's city records indicate that the land was sold to UDC in 2011.

In exchange for the chair's return, White Lies Matter is demanding that UDC hang a banner bearing a quote from civil rights activist, former Black Panther, and current political asylee, Assata Shakur. WLM claims to have already delivered the banner and wants it hoisted at UDC's Richmond, VA headquarters starting on Friday, April 9, the anniversary of Confederate surrender and end of the Civil War.

“The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives,” reads the banner.

Image courtesy of White Lies Matter, Inc

In an email to local news outlets, WLM included a photo-shopped image of what the banner might look like hanging at UDC's headquarters. The email also provided some insight into the group's perspective on Confederate monuments and current events.

Image courtesy of White Lives Matter, Inc

"Like most Confederate monuments, [the chair] mostly exists to remind those who's [sic] freedom had to be purchased in blood, that there still exists a portion of our country that is more than willing to continue to spill blood to avoid paying that debt down," explained the missive.

“Many in this country seem more concerned with violence against things than violence against people, as long as they continue to convince themselves that those people are just ‘things.' The UDC is set to make that distinction on Friday. Rather than surrender, something the Confederacy has plenty of practice doing, they will remain stubborn and we will take pleasure in creating a toilet out of their cherished monument.”

But the south won’t rise again. Not as the Confederacy. Because that coalition left out a large portion of its population. All that’s left of that nightmare is an obscenely heavy chair that’s a throne for a ghost whose greatest accomplishment was treason,” concluded the email.

Despite efforts to frame their actions in the service of equality, White Lies Matter members have committed a serious crime by removing the controversial chair. Because the monument has been valued at $500,000, anyone found guilty of its theft could be charged with a felony.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Patricia Godwin, a longtime member of Selma's chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, described the loss of the monument as "grand theft," and added, “They need to return the chair."

Selma's District Attorney Michael Jackson has also vowed to pursue the case and admits that the circumstances of the theft are quite bizarre. "William Shakespeare could not have written this story," Jackson said in a statement. The district attorney's office is currently seeking video of the incident that was allegedly taken on March 19, the date of the theft.

A $5,000 reward has been offered by the Selma UDC chapter for any information leading to the recovery of the monument.