Ransom note threatens to make Confederate monument a toilet

After a Confederate monument (not pictured) of Jefferson Davis was stolen from an Alabama cemetery last month, a group now claiming responsibility is threatening to turn the ornate sculpture of a chair into a toilet. (AJC file photo, courtesy of The Washington Post)
After a Confederate monument (not pictured) of Jefferson Davis was stolen from an Alabama cemetery last month, a group now claiming responsibility is threatening to turn the ornate sculpture of a chair into a toilet. (AJC file photo, courtesy of The Washington Post)

Credit: The Washington Post

Credit: The Washington Post

After a Confederate monument was stolen from an Alabama cemetery last month, a group now claiming responsibility is threatening to turn the ornate sculpture of a chair into a toilet.

The strange saga began March 20, when the United Daughters of the Confederacy reported the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chair had gone missing from a Selma cemetery. District Attorney Michael Jackson said an email signed “White Lies Matter” was sent to media outlets Monday claiming to be from the person, or people, who took the chair.

ExploreConfederate monument, erected in Gwinnett in 1993, comes down

The Associated Press could not confirm the authenticity of the claim, and the email’s author did not identify themselves.

“Selma is like ‘The Twilight Zone,’” Jackson told The Associated Press. “It’s never a dull moment here.”

The email said the chair will be returned only if the United Daughters of the Confederacy agrees to display a banner at its Richmond, Virginia, headquarters bearing a quote from a Black Liberation Army activist on Friday, the anniversary of the South’s surrender in the Civil War. If they don’t, the chair gets turned into a toilet, the email said.

“Jefferson Davis doesn’t need it anymore. He’s long dead. ... Like most Confederate monuments, it 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,” the note said.

“They need to return the chair. It's grand theft."

- Patricia Godwin, a longtime member of the Selma chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy

Patricia Godwin, a longtime member of the Selma chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said the symbolic chair for the Confederate president was donated more than 100 years ago and sat with other Confederate monuments in a private section of the Old Live Oak Cemetery. The group said the monument was worth $500,000, according to the police report.

“They need to return the chair. It’s grand theft,” Godwin told the AP.

The email went out two days after the UDC ran an ad in the local paper seeking the chair’s return, Godwin said.

Why we picked this story
At our morning team huddle, we discuss stories that are “talkers.” People are primed to look for driving forces in the world, ones that we can explain through our collective experience. This is one example.

Jackson said he thinks whoever sent the email is responsible for the theft. It included photos of what looks to be the ornate stone or concrete chair sitting on plywood inside a building and another of someone rolling a large object away from the cemetery.

The ransom note demands that the UDC displays a banner with the Assata Shakur quote: “The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives.” If the UDC displays the banner, the group says it will return the chair — and clean it to boot — but “if they don’t, we will turn the chair into a toilet.”

An email and phone call to the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Virginia office was not immediately returned.

A response to an email query to the address that sent the ransom note said the group’s aim is “to creatively address the argument surrounding Confederate monuments and hope that the UDC chooses to play ball.”

“Many in this country seem more concerned with violence against things than violence against people, as long as they can continue to convince themselves those people are just things,” the reply said.

In Other News