On March 20, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an association dedicated to furthering the “lost-cause” mentality and funding Confederate monuments, reported that a stone chair dedicated to Jefferson Davis in the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama, had been stolen. Then, on April 5, an anti-racism group calling itself White Lies Matter sent out an email blast to the press, according to the Associated Press, offering to return the chair if the Daughters of the Confederacy hung a banner with a quote from Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur from their headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.
If the group didn’t hang the banner from Friday, April 9, through the 10th (the 150th anniversary of the South’s surrender), White Lies Matter promised that the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chair, an ornately carved monument owned by the Daughters of the Confederacy and dedicated to Davis in 1893, would be turned into a toilet.
“Jefferson Davis doesn’t need it anymore. He’s long dead,” reportedly read the ransom note from White Lies Matter, according to the AP. “Like most Confederate monuments, it mostly exists to remind those who’s freedom had to be purchased in blood, that there still exists a portion of our country that is more than willing to continue to spill blood to avoid paying that debt down.”
Of course, the Daughters of the Confederacy, which has been lauded by the KKK and accused of furthering white supremacy, flat out refused. In response, White Lies Matter then sent photos to Hyperallergic on Thursday, April 8 showing a member dressed in a Union army outfit squatting on the seat, as promised, with a Confederate flag nearby for toilet paper. The group also claimed that they had drilled a hole through the seat .
“Four hundred years ago, the first slave arrived on American soil,” White Lies Matter told Hyperallergic in a statement. “A hundred and fifty years ago, we fought a senseless war to double down on that original sin. And now we all have to deal with the consequences. At least now their stupid chair is useful.”
However, that appears to have been a fake-out and the chair was recovered, undamaged, in New Orleans on Thursday (that same day). Stanley Warnick and Kathryn Diionno were arrested in New Orleans, while a third suspect, Stanley Pate, is wanted by police. The memorial chair is worth approximately $500,000, and all three suspects are being tried for possession of stolen property in New Orleans. They also face charges of extortion and theft in Selma.
For their part, Warnick and Diionno have maintained their innocence and claim not to be affiliated with White Lies Matter. According to the New York Times, the police were tipped off by an anonymous source and the Daughters of the Confederacy plan to give the $5,000 they were offering for information to whoever alerted the police.
Although it’s unclear how the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chair made its way to Louisiana, the memorial will be returned to the same Selma graveyard it was stolen from.