MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An "anti-racist action group" is claiming responsibility and holding for ransom a stone chair, dedicated to Jefferson Davis, stolen from a cemetery in Selma, Alabama, last month.
According to an email from the group, "White Lies Matter," the chair was taken from the cemetery about a month ago. Selma police Chief Kenta Fulford confirmed that his department received a report of the chair being stolen.
Instead of cash, however, the group has asked the United Daughters of the Confederacy to hang a banner outside their headquarters in Virginia for 24 hours, beginning April 9, with a quote from Assata Shakur. April 9 is the 156th anniversary of Robert E. Lee's surrender in Appomattox, Virginia.
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"The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives," says the banner that the group mailed to the UDC.
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Shakur was a former member of the Black Liberation Army, convicted of murder in 1977, who escaped prison in 1979 and remains free despite being wanted by the FBI. Shakur was granted political asylum in Cuba.
In the notice the group sent Monday, they wrote about the tension between "our heritage of white supremacy and our underlying belief in 'liberty and justice for all.'"
"America's original sin is that people were kidnapped from their homes and forced to build one of the most prosperous nations in the world, without being allowed to participate in it," the letter says. "...We decided, in the spirit of such ignominious traditions, to kidnap a chair instead. Jefferson Davis doesn't need it anymore. He's long dead. To be honest, he never even had the chance to sit in it in the first place."
The chair was first noticed missing on March 19, the weekend of the Selma Pilgrimage, according to social media posts. There is a $5,000 reward leading to information about the disappearance of the chair, described as being about 3 feet tall and weighing several hundred pounds.
The Ladies of Selma presented the stone chair in memory of Jefferson Davis in 1893, over 20 years after he'd last visited the city. Before being stolen, the chair was displayed in Confederate Circle, which covers about an acre in Selma’s Old Live Oak Cemetery.
Weathered by time, the monument used to show details of ferns, tree trunks and branches. An inscription read "Here We Rest" on the chair's back, and the dedication to Davis used to be visible on the seat.
The chair is not the first memorial to be taken from Confederate Circle. After a bust of Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest was vandalized and covered with trash, it was moved from city property to Confederate Circle. It was from there that Forrest’s bronze bust was stolen, never to be recovered. Friends of Forrest, a local group, had the bust replaced.
In 2011, the Selma City Council sold the property surrounding Confederate Circle to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Along with several Confederate monuments, the property displays artillery pieces from the Spanish-American War, along with other military monuments.
"We took their toy, and we don't feel guilty about it," the letter from the group says.
In an email correspondence with the group, they said they'd been planning to take the chair since last fall. They chose Shakur's quote to highlight what the group says is a "wrinkle in the argument surrounding Confederate monuments."
"Many in this country seem more concerned with violence against things than violence against people," the group said.
If the UDC does not hang the banner, the group said it plans to "turn the chair into a toilet."
"If they do display the banner, not only will we return the chair intact, but we will clean it to boot," according to the group. "For all that talk about heritage, they really haven't taken care of the thing."
As of Monday afternoon, the group had not heard from the UDC regarding their demand. Efforts to reach both the national and Selma chapter of the UDC were not successful.
Follow Montgomery Advertiser reporter Kirsten Fiscus on Twitter: @KDFiscus
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This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Jefferson Davis chair monument reported stolen; group demands ransom