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Attorney says Fort Myers owns Robert E. Lee bust; city will decide its fate

The Fort Myers city attorney determined Monday that the bust of Robert E. Lee belongs to the city of Fort Myers, which will try to place it in a museum or keep it out of the public eye for good.

The city council approved a motion 5-2 in favor of the bust going to a museum rather than return to its plinth at the previous outdoor public space in the city.

The museum that will house the bust was not named when the motion was approved.

Those who wanted the bust down and those who fought for it to stay both say it represents a part of their history, but it’s a painful history for some.

“Generations of me sold away and families that I done lost forever because they are gone, and this is what he stood for,” demonstrator Shirley Byrd said.

Demonstrators used chains, signs, scars and costumes to hold a mock slave auction and make their message clear about what Robert E. Lee represents to them.

“He stood for white supremacy,” Byrd said. “He stood for the traditional roles in this world to keep his feet on my neck, per se.”

Leaders of Sons of Confederate Veterans, who have fought for the bust to remain downtown, say they are devastated by the decision to remove a part of their history, and that Robert E. Lee is someone who should be honored.

“What they did tonight was a travesty,” said Ross Barnett, the commander of William Footman Camp. “They did that feel-good response to make certain individuals happy, and they’ve left the rest of us out in the cold.”

The commander says he thinks the public should vote on the statue’s future. The Sons of Confederate Veterans attorney told us he still believes the organization is the rightful owner of the bust.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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