Controversy over Confederate portrait brewing


Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Ku Klux Klan has weighed in on the NAACP's request to remove a portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Florida county building.

Frank Ancona, a spokesman for the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said that the group's national leadership was notified recently by local members because the Lee County NAACP said it wants hold demonstrations because the county refuses to take down Lee's portrait that hangs in the county commission chambers.

The NAACP says the portrait of the Confederate general is a slap to the face for local minorities.

The Ku Klux Klan said the portrait is not racist and sent a three-page letter to Lee County Commissioners that included a brief biography of the general and a letter he wrote in 1856.

target="_blank">The News-Press reports that a half-dozen or so supporters of the portrait — mostly members of local Confederate historical groups — discussed the painting during a County Commission meeting Tuesday night.

A member of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans told commissioners the group strongly objects to attempts to remove the portrait.

Waymond Edmonson of Cape Coral told the commissioners: "If anyone can come up with a better representative for the county, I'll help them hang the portrait."

No one from the NAACP spoke at the meeting. Local President James Muwakkil on Monday said his group would meet with the state NAACP before moving ahead with demonstrations.

"Lee County proudly displays General Robert E. Lee portrait in the Lee Commissioners Chambers. It is where all citizens gather to take care of official business," Muwakkil's email to the state and national NAACP said. "We now ask permission to engage in Direct Action in ways such as follow: a sit in within the County Commissioner chambers, permission to picket, permission to demonstrate, and to make signs calling voters to remove the four male commissioners who refused to second the only female on the Commission move to hold a public hearing on the portrait."

Lee County is named after Lee, who commanded the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The Ku Klux Klan's Ancona said that his group feels that the NAACP is "trying to erase a part of history."

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