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Controversy continues over Robert E. Lee portrait

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A painting is creating a serious rift in Southwest Florida.

A portrait of General Robert E. Lee hangs in county commission chambers. It’s been there for years and the county is named after the general, but in the wake of the Charleston massacre, some people say it must come down.

“The one person who lead the attack against our freedom is being honored by our county government,” said Lee County’s NAACP President James Muwakkil.

He sides with those who think the portrait of General Robert E. Lee shouldn’t hang in a place of government. Instead, he says, it belongs in a museum.

“It represents slavery,” he said, “and it represent black families being torn apart.”

Not everyone agrees, however. Wednesday, people flooded commissioners’ inboxes arguing both sides, but the majority of emails supported leaving the picture on the wall.

One person wrote, “the portrait of Robert E Lee is history!”

Another questioned if taking the portrait down would provoke calls to change the name of “Lee County” to “Grant County” instead. Yet another person argued “you simply can’t rewrite American history.”

Muwakkil says he doesn’t want to lose sight of what it would mean, for the community he represents, to have this picture removed.

He held up an American Flag and said, “this flag is what we should see when we walk in that door not the Robert E. Lee picture, because that man fought to keep us as slaves.”

Commissioner Frank Mann told WINK News this issue has come up a number of times throughout the years. His position has stayed the same: that the portrait should stay.

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