The University Police Department is investigating a vandalism incident that occurred early Sunday morning in which a rope noose and “a pre-2003 Georgia state flag” were hung from the James Meredith statue on campus.
Officers responded to the call Sunday at 7:09 a.m. Upon arrival, they discovered the rope and the flag on the statue. Before it was changed in 2003, the Georgia state flag showed the Confederate “bars and stars” on its face.
“We are investigating the incident and will continue to work to catch those responsible,” UPD Police Chief Calvin Sellers said.
Mark McMillan, owner of an insulation company contracted out by the university to work on the library’s cooling tower, saw the two individuals who police believe are responsible for the incident, and he was the first person to see the vandalism.
“I came up on a couple younger-looking boys by the loading dock that were yelling ‘white power’ and ‘f— n—–s’ on my way back over towards the statue,” he said. “When I rounded the corner of (the George Street House), I noticed the rope and the flag, and it definitely showed the Confederate flag.”
McMillan said the rope was tied around the statue’s neck like a noose, and the flag was draped over the shoulders and back of the statue like a scarf.
The statue of James Meredith is part of a civil rights monument in the center of campus. The monument was dedicated Oct. 1, 2006, celebrating Meredith becoming the first black student at the university in 1962 and the progress the university has made in terms of race relations since then.
“To my knowledge, this is the first incident like this to happen to the statue,” Sellers said.
Sellers confirmed that two male subjects were in the area and said the investigation is ongoing. The department is checking video surveillance footage around the area and had not named suspects at the time of publication.
The Daily Mississippian received the story tip early Monday morning and began to question police and university officials. The university responded publicly about the incident Monday evening.
“These individuals chose our university’s most visible symbol of unity and educational accessibility to express their disagreement with our values,” Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones said. “Their ideas have no place here, and our response will be an even greater commitment to promoting the values that are engraved on the statue – Courage, Knowledge, Opportunity, and Perseverance.”
In addition to the ongoing UPD investigation, the Ole Miss Alumni Association has offered a $25,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the two individuals involved in the incident.
“This is particularly painful because the James Meredith statue has become a gathering place for students to discuss many things, including the tenets of our creed, which calls for dignity and respect for all people,” said Don Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.
– Adam Ganucheau