An anti-racist group known as White Lies Matter has stolen a Confederate monument from the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama, and says it is holding it for ransom. The price for its return? On April 9, the anniversary of the end of the Civil War, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) must hang a banner outside its headquarters with a quote by civil rights activist Assata Shakur: “The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives.”
The ornate stone chair, dedicated in 1893 to former Confederacy president Jefferson Davis and valued at $500,000, was taken last month from a part of the cemetery curated by the UDC. White Lies Matter (WLM), a leaderless movement of anti-racist activists stationed in the Deep South, has promised to transform the throne “into a toilet” if its demands are not met.
“Like most Confederate monuments, it mostly exists to remind those who’s 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,” WLM said in a statement shared with Hyperallergic.
The UDC is a hereditary association of women formed in 1894 to “honor the memory of those who served and those who fell in the service of the Confederate States of America.” The organization has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, but a spokesperson told local news outlet MassLive that reports of the theft and ransom demand were “fake news.”
It remains to be seen whether UDC will comply with the activists’ request of displaying the Shakur quote for 24 hours starting this Friday at 1pm, the exact time Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox, Virginia. In an email, WLM shared a photoshopped image of the UDC’s headquarters in Richmond flaunting the proposed banner at its entrance.
The Old Live Oak Cemetery houses the graves of Confederate soldiers as well as prominent Selma residents, including Benjamin Sterling Turner, a former enslaved person who became the first African-American congressman from Alabama.
In 2011, a bronze bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was stolen from the site. At the time, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans raised tens of thousands of dollars to incentivize the bust’s return. The UDC is offering a $5,000 reward for any information about the Davis chair’s disappearance.
“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,’” WLM told Hyperallergic. “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.”