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Police prepare for protests at controversial Fort Myers statue Tuesday

The debate over a confederate statue in downtown Fort Myers is going to get more heated, as protesters of the statue plan on making their opinion known on Tuesday.


The statue in downtown Fort Myers/WINK News

The two sides involved are far from reaching a middle ground over the Robert E. Lee statue.

As critics and supporters gear up for a showdown on Tuesday, Fort Myers Police say they’re making special preparations ahead of the planned demonstration organized by the Lee County NAACP.

NAACP President James Muwakkil/WINK News

“Obviously nobody wants any sort of violence….you know, altercations. Nobody wants any confrontation or hostility,” said Rachel Bass.

Those opposed to the statue want it moved from city property to a less conspicuous location like a history museum. Other groups say they plan to join the cause as well.

“It’s time for people outside of that immediate circle to come and support their efforts,” Bass said.

Supporters of the statue, like the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, plan to stage their own demonstration.

The statue in downtown Fort Myers/WINK News

“They just want to protect the statue from a physical standpoint, so it doesn’t wind up like a lot of the statues vandalized that have been in the news recently,” said Steve Fabian.

As the group’s spokesman, Fabian says the statue should remain a visible symbol of the country’s history.

“If you can’t have a statue of Robert E. Lee in the county seat of Robert E. Lee county, and a portrait of him, where can you have it?” Fabian said.

Sons of the Confederacy/WINK News

But critics say it sends a hateful message.

“It’s not like a historical thing that happened right after the Civil War. It was put up during a time where the county and Fort Myers was being forcibly desegregated,” Bass said. “These things were placed here to send the message of who’s in charge, and it’s not the African American population.”

Both sides say they’re committed to making sure the demonstrations remain peaceful.

The event is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Lee NAACP president says he’s getting violent threats after confederate statue comments

James Muwakkil, the president of the Lee County NAACP, says he’s been getting a lot of threatening messages lately, some of which sound like this:


“This is southwest Florida, southern born and bred. There’s a lot more of us than there are of you.”

He’s been getting threats after the NAACP upped the ante on removing the Robert E. Lee statue in downtown Fort Myers.

“That’s mild compared to some of the message we’ve gotten in the past. I care about it, but I’m moving forward,” Muwakkil said.

They have a protest scheduled on May 15 at the statue site, and a presentation to the city council six days later. But now he says the threats are getting too personal to ignore.

“My directives were go to the FBI,” Muwakkil said.

In a letter sent to county leaders, including the Lee County Sheriff, Muwakkil says a man pulled up to his house last month and took a photo.

“I yelled at him, ‘hey, who are you?! Who are you?!” Muwakkil said.

And last weekend, a man at a Fort Myers barber shop told him this: “He said one of the confederate commanders said if he put up $500, could that make you become invisible?”

WINK News spoke to that man over the phone, but he says there was no threat.

Muwakkil certainly doesn’t see it that way, and his group doesn’t either.

“The NAACP didn’t take is as a joke,” he said.

The Sons of the Confederacy say they’re a historical society, and if Muwakkil’s claims are true, they’d remove that member and report them to law enforcement.

But despite the threats, Muwakkil says they’ve got larger numbers, and therefore, the advantage.

“The statue on Monroe Street is coming down. Make no mistake about it. It’s coming down,” he said.

Mike Scott, the Lee County Sheriff released this statement on Muwakkil’s claims of threats against him and his organization:

“I have shared your information with our intelligence unit and we will not hesitate to assist our law enforcement colleagues as/if further information presents.”

On May 15, Muwakkil says NAACP members will also change their political party to Republican in an effort to vote out commissioners.


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