Students, staff and faculty at the University of Mississippi are reacting with dismay at the latest race incident on campus. Meanwhile, the FBI is trying to help find whoever draped a confederate-style old Georgia state flag and tied a noose around the statue of James Meredith on the Oxford campus on Sunday morning. The statue commemorates the enrollment of the first black student at Ole Miss in 1962.
A group of twenty odd students is gathered around the statue of James Meredith, unfurling an Ole Miss banner, taking Meredith by the hand. Marketing Senior Camila Velasquez is the organizer for the Latin American Student Organization.
"Today we are supporting Meredith because we are absolutely in shock about what happened on Sunday. So we as an organization, as a minority organization reject what happened on Sunday," Velasquez says.
Students, staff and faculty are reacting with disgust and anger at the latest incident that once again returns the university to an unflattering national spotlight. A stone’s throw away, inside the Lyceum – the university’s storied administrative building that still bears the gun shot holes from the race riot in 1962 – Donald Cole is visibly upset. Now the chancellor’s assistant for multicultural affairs, he was himself among the early group of black students to attend Ole Miss in 1970. To Cole the statue is sacred.
”But somehow it seemed as if we were struck in the heart. As if a death blow -- and it hurts.”
Meanwhile the FBI is on campus, helping with the investigation, trying to determine if a hate crime was committed. On Monday, the university announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. University Police Chief Calvin Sellers says tips have been pouring in:
"I think we’re getting close. We’re getting a good many tips. And we may have had a name or two mentioned by more than one person so that brings that one to the top a little more.”
More student events are planned this week to present a united front against bigotry.
In answer someone has already placed a long-stemmed rose at the statue’s feet.
Sandra Knispel, MPB News Oxford.