FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Lee County chapter of the NAACP wants to hold demonstrations because the county refuses to take down a portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee that hangs in the commissioners’ meeting chambers.

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

The News-Press reports that a half-dozen or so supporters of the portrait — mostly members of local Confederate historical groups — talked about 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.”

Lou Stickles, chaplain for the group, said the general was the best example for Lee County. “He had to do more and more with less and less and keep morale up,” he said. “He was a perfect Southern gentleman.”

One commissioner said he’s received overwhelming support from the community for the county to keep the portrait in place.

Thomas Fyock, with the Sons of Confederate Veterans said portrait has nothing to do with racism.

“The portrait is there to honor the county that’s named for him,” he said.

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.


Information from: The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press,