The Collegian
Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Two people arrested in connection with the theft of Jefferson Davis monument chair

<p>The United Daughters of the Confederacy Memorial Building in Richmond, Virginia. <em>Photo courtesy of the </em><a href="https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/"><em>Virginia Department of Historic Resources</em></a><em>.</em></p>

The United Daughters of the Confederacy Memorial Building in Richmond, Virginia. Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

A group called White Lies Matter, who describe themselves as an anti-racist action group, contacted local media outlets on April 5 via email, and wrote that members of the group allegedly stole a Confederate monument and threatened to carve it into a toilet unless the United Daughters of the Confederacy hung a banner on its national headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. 

The Jefferson Davis Chair, a 128-year-old ornate stone chair, was stolen last month from Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama, according to White Lies Matter. Michael Jackson, Dallas County district attorney, confirmed the theft of the chair to The Collegian.

The monument has since been recovered in New Orleans, and two people have been arrested in connection with the theft, according to Alabama News Network

Stanley Warnick, 32, and Kathryn Diionno, 24, were arrested last week, according to ANN. Police are still looking for a third suspect, Stanley Pate, 34, according to ANN. 

Warnick and Diionno will be charged in New Orleans for receiving stolen property, Jackson said. In Selma, the suspects will be charged with theft and extortion, Jackson said.

White Lies Matter demanded the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group dedicated to protecting Confederate memory, hang a banner with a quote by Black Liberation Army activist Assata Shakur on the front of their headquarters in Richmond in exchange for the return of the chair, according to a email sent to local media. 

The banner, which was sent to the United Daughters of the Confederacy on April 5 read: “The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives.”

White Lies Matter asked that the banner be hung on the headquarters for 24 hours starting at 1 p.m. on April 9, which was the anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender. Along with the ransom letter and note explaining their actions, the group sent photos of the chair and photos of people allegedly stealing the chair. 

In an email to The Collegian on April 8, White Lies Matter wrote that they had stolen the chair to make a point about the United Daughters of the Confederacy's values of property over people.

“If we make the news, we get to release statements,” according to the email. “People have to report on those statements. Slavery is not a scar in our country any more than the civil war is, it’s an open wound. That’s what the Lost Cause narrative is, a giant PR campaign for residual prejudice that to this day is a functional part of our American Experiment.”

White Lies Matter selected the chair because it is rare to find monuments like this in public spaces, which are vulnerable to theft, an anonymous spokesperson of White Lies Matter said in an interview with The Collegian. 

The chair was also chosen because of its difficulty to replicate, as monuments that have been stolen, such as the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust, have often been replaced with replicas, the spokesperson said.

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Although the chair was stolen on March 19, according to the Washington Post, the theft of the chair went largely unnoticed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and locals until White Lies Matter alerted local media and the United Daughters of the Confederacy last week, the anonymous spokesperson for White Lies Matter said. 

Jackson confirmed that the chair's disappearance went unnoticed. 

On April 7, White Lies Matter issued a statement saying that they were going to move forward with carving the chair into a toilet and return it immediately because the United Daughters of the Confederacy did not indicate they would hang the banner. 

Along with the statement, the group sent photos of the chair allegedly being used as a toilet.

White Lies Matter confirmed in an email to The Collegian that the Jefferson Davis Chair had not been carved into a toilet, and that the chair used as a toilet in the photos released the day before was a replica. 

Along with the statement in the email, White Lies Matter emailed photos showing the creation of the replica and wrote that the group would give the GPS coordinates of the chair's location to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The chair, which appeared undamaged, was recovered later in a tattoo parlor in New Orleans, Jackson said. 

“I told people William Shakespeare couldn’t have wrote this story,” Jackson said. “This case had more twists and turns and all, so I was just glad that the New Orleans police department did as good a job as Columbo would’ve done.”

In the email to The Collegian on April 8, White Lies Matter wrote: “If our methods are a little immature, that’s because comedy is a way to get into people’s hearts before you get into their heads.  Even Mr. Jackson, the DA of Selma, seemed to understand there was a bit of levity involved in the stunt. We would argue it wasn’t quite Shakespeare, but maybe a cut-rate George Carlin.”

The chair was returned to Selma, Jackson said on April 7. The United Daughters of the Confederacy confirmed that the chair had been returned, according to NBC12.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy did not respond to The Collegian’s requests for comment. 

Contact City & State editor Eileen Pomeroy at eileen.pomeroy@richmond.edu.

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