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U of Mississippi opens investigation into hostile protest involving racist taunts

The University of Mississippi school banner is waved during pregame activities prior to the start of an NCAA college football game in October 2021. The university's leader denounced actions during a protest last week.
The University of Mississippi school banner is waved during pregame activities prior to the start of an NCAA college football game in October 2021. The university’s leader denounced actions during a protest last week.

The University of Mississippi opened an investigation into student behavior after saying there were “actions that radiated hostility and racist overtones” during a demonstration on campus last week.

Videos of Thursday’s protests circulating on social media showed heated clashes between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and a much larger group of counter-protesters.

One video shows a black woman and a group of white male counter-protesters yelling at each other. In it, a man imitates the sounds and dance of a monkey towards the woman, while others in the crowd chant, “Lock her up!”

In a letter to students and faculty the next day, university Chancellor Glenn Boyce said that “university leaders are aware that some statements were offensive, hurtful and unacceptable,” and has launched an investigation into the conduct of one student. “We are working to determine if more cases are warranted,” he added.

“Behaviors and comments that demean people because of their race or ethnicity marginalize them and undermine the values ​​fundamental to a civil and safe society,” Boyce wrote.

In a statement on Saturday, the Phi Delta Theta fraternity said it had removed a member of the school’s Mississippi Alpha chapter responsible for the “racist actions in the video,” which it said conflicted with its values.

University student leaders said in a letter Friday that “unacceptable comments that deviated from our cherished values ​​were made” during the protest.

For many, this moment is a dark reminder of the history of racism at the University of Mississippi. There have been decades of efforts to dismantle segregation. The former mascot was a plantation owner named Colonel Rebel. The university has taken steps in recent years to ban Confederate symbols long intertwined with the school and state pride.

Boyce acknowledged the school’s past.

“While we are a modern university with a vibrant community of more than 25,000 people, it is important to recognize our challenging history, and incidents like this can set us back,” he said. “It is one of the reasons why we do not take this lightly and cannot let the unacceptable behavior of a few speak for our institution or define us.”