Fort Myers City Council votes bust of Robert E. Lee not be returned for now to public space

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
The empty plinth where the bust of Robert E. Lee once sat atop of in downtown Fort Myers. Credit: WINK News.

Fort Myers City Council voted unanimously to continue to keep the bust of Robert E. Lee from being returned to its downtown plinth during its Monday meeting.

The bust has long been the center of controversy in the city, and it was the center of heated discussion at the council meeting.

There is still a lot to figure out, including who owns the bust, the plinth, and the land, and whether the bust can be housed permanently at another location such as a museum. Until all that is figured out, the council voted unanimously to keep the bust down.

Vasha Tolbert has been attending the city council meetings frequently to fight for the removal of the bust.

β€œIt’s just a symbolism of hate,” Tolbert said.

After Monday’s meeting, she is feeling victorious.

“I know there was a tough decision for them to make, especially considering election time,” Tolbert said. β€œBut I thank them for making it.”

Council will wait until the city attorney and city manager can work together to figure out who owns the bust and alternative recommendations for where the bust can go.

“The City of Fort Myers, I believe, owns the land, that pedestal and the bust it’s on,” City Attorney Grant Alley said. β€œI believe we own the pedestal, and I believe we own the bust.”

But Alley doesn’t know that for sure.

Members of Sons of Confederate Veterans went to the meeting, bringing documents they say show Lee County owns the property and are against its permanent removal. Members spoke during the meeting, urging the council to reconsider the complete removal of the bust.

Ultimately, those on the council agreed the bust causes pain for some members of the community and will remain at the center of debate until something is done.

Sons of Confederate Veterans say the bust is being refurbished.

Some council members fear, if the bust went back up, it would be vandalized again.

The city manager and city attorney say they will work together to find out who owns the bust and present council with recommendations for the next steps.

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