The bust of Robert E. Lee has been sitting on its perch in downtown Fort Myers since the 1960s. But with the recent outrage over George Floyd’s death, sparking protests all around the country, the bust was taken down earlier this week. The Sons of Confederate Veterans did so as a precaution.
It has been announced that the Robert E. Lee Statue that has overlooked Richmond, Virginia for years is coming down as well. But what will become of the bust that usually occupies Monroe and First streets?
Some mayoral candidates believe it shouldn’t be replaced. Jacquelyn McMiller, one mayoral candidate, says the bust is a symbol of segregation and separation.
“How are we going to embrace solidarity and if we are going to embrace inclusion. Those symbols basically prevent that from happening,” McMiller said.
Another candidate, Gaile Anthony, says we shouldn’t let a statue keep us from moving forward and achieving unity.
“I just don’t believe we should let a statue define us,” she said. But Anthony added that it’s not her place to decide. “We need to talk to the people. I don’t think that’s a decision that a mayor should make.”
The third candidate, Kevin Anderson, says that while we do need to understand how the statue affects people, it’s also not his decision to make.
“We always need to be very cognizant of how it affects the community,” Anderson said.
However, he said, “What I think really doesn’t matter. It’s what the general public, what the majority of the public thinks. As public officials, we need to be responsive to the people.”
Anderson added that the statue is public art and, again, not controlled by him.
Anderson and Anthony already hold City Council seats.
Neither Lee County nor Fort Myers claims responsibility for the statue. But the statue is in Fort Myers city limits. However, it is maintained by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.