A former University of Mississippi student who defaced a statue, honoring James Meredith, the first African-American to attend and graduate from Ole Miss, has been indicted.
A federal grand jury on March 27 indicted Graeme Phillip Harris on one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees on the Oxford campus because of their race or color.
Harris and others hung a rope and an outdated version of the Georgia state flag, which prominently depicts the Confederate battle flag, around the neck of James Meredith statute during the early morning hours of Feb. 16, 2014.
At one time, Georgia was the center of lynchings in the United States.
White terrorists in Georgia lynched 586 black men, women and children between 1877 and 1950, which was more than any other state, including Mississippi, which was second with 576 individuals murdered, according to Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala.
Three freshmen, who were allegedly involved in the incident, were kicked out of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, which closed its Ole Miss chapter.
“This shameful and ignorant act is an insult to all Americans and a violation of most strongly held values,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “No one should ever be made to feel threatened or intimidated because of what they look like and who they are. By taking appropriate action to hold wrongdoers accountable, the Department of Justice is sending a clear message that flagrant infringements of our historic civil rights will not go unnoticed or unpunished.”
The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorneys Office of the Northern District of Mississippi are prosecuting the case.
The iconic statue honors Meredith’s role as the university’s first African-American student, following the school’s violent 1962 integration.
After the incident, students gathered around the statute to decry racism and to support Ole Miss.