As ransom calls for go, this one was a bit completely different.
After a heavy, ornately carved limestone chair devoted to Jefferson Davis disappeared final month from a Confederate burial floor in Selma, Ala., the place it had stood since 1893, a group calling itself White Lies Matter claimed final week to have the chair in its possession.
The group stated it could return the chair to its proprietor, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, however solely on one situation. White Lies Matter demanded that the United Daughters cling a banner on its headquarters in Richmond, Va., the previous capital of the Confederacy, in accordance to AL.com, which reported on the demand. It was to stay there from Friday — the anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s give up at Appomattox — to Saturday.
The banner was to show a quote attributed to Assata Shakur, a Black Liberation Army activist wanted for escaping from prison whereas serving a life sentence for the homicide of a New Jersey state trooper in 1973: “The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives.”
“Failure to do so will result in the monument, an ornate stone chair, immediately being turned into a toilet,” learn an electronic mail that White Lies Matter despatched to AL.com. “If they do display the banner, not only will we return the chair intact, but we will clean it to boot.”
Pat Godwin, the president of the Selma chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, stated the group by no means thought of hanging the banner. “The United Daughters of the Confederacy was not going to bow to extortion,” she stated on Saturday.
The group didn’t have to. The New Orleans police stated that a tip had led them to the “seemingly undamaged” chair close to the intersection of Feliciana and North Galvez Streets on Thursday and that that they had made plans to return the monument to its proprietor.
The police stated that they had additionally arrested two folks, Stanley Warnick, 32, and Kathryn Diionno, 24, and have been searching for a third individual, Stanley Pate, 34, in reference to the theft. All three face fees in New Orleans of possession of stolen property, the police stated, including that the chair was price $500,000.
Michael Jackson, the district lawyer in Dallas County, Ala., stated the three would additionally face fees in Selma of extortion and theft.
“This was stolen from a cemetery, and you don’t want to encourage young people to steal and that theft is OK, for whatever reason,” Mr. Jackson stated. “I don’t know what their motive is, but this is the kind of situation that makes people angry, on all sides.”
The New Orleans police didn’t say if the theft was related to White Lies Matter, and each Mr. Warnick and Ms. Diionno denied any involvement with the group, in accordance to Michael Kennedy, a lawyer who represents Mr. Warnick and was licensed by Ms. Diionno’s lawyer to converse on her behalf as properly.
“Our clients are not affiliated with White Lies Matter or any other political activism group,” Mr. Kennedy stated, describing Mr. Warnick and Ms. Diionno because the homeowners of a tattoo store who, like different small business homeowners, had been struggling in the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously they’re upset to have been arrested and to have their names associated with anything like this,” Mr. Kennedy stated. “It comes down to just a mistake. Clearly, an unfortunate one, but a mistake.”
Ms. Godwin stated her group was now deciding whether or not to return the chair to its longtime dwelling in a part of Selma the place Confederate troopers are buried. She estimated it weighs about 500 kilos.
“From what I can gather, they’re going to do this again,” she stated. “So we’re hoping they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and maybe it will derail their efforts to continue to do this.”
Ms. Godwin stated she had been “absolutely devastated” when the chair vanished on March 19 and stated the United Daughters of the Confederacy had supplied a $5,000 reward for its return. She stated the group deliberate to pay the reward to a tipster who she stated had helped the police discover the monument.
“It was the pressure from the New Orleans police that brought these people to light,” Ms. Godwin stated. “It didn’t have anything to do with them recanting their intentions about turning the chair into a toilet.”
The chair was taken at a time when protesters throughout the nation have toppled statues of Confederate leaders, focusing on them as symbols of racism and white supremacy. Some cities have additionally eliminated, bought or sought to contextualize Confederate monuments with historic panels.
An unnamed spokesman for White Lies Matter, talking in a Southern accent that he acknowledged was faux, informed The Washington Post that the group had taken the chair “to create conversation” about the way in which some folks worth objects over human life.
“We took their toy, and we don’t feel guilty about it,” the group informed nola.com. “They never play with it anyway.”