Nooses, Signs to Protest Mississippi's Racist History Found at State Capitol
"On Tuesday Nov. 27, thousands of Mississippians will vote for a senator. We need someone who respects the lives of lynch victims," one sign said.
Seven nooses were found at the Mississippi State Capitol on Monday.
The nooses were discovered one day before the U.S. Senate runoff between Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith and former Democratic congressman Mike Espy, a Black candidate.
Recently, Hyde-Smith has been blasted for making problematic comments about a "public hanging," and for taking pictures in Confederate regalia.
According to the NAACP, "Mississippi had the highest lynchings from 1882-1968 with 581."
Apparently, the signs, which accompanied the nooses, were created to bring awareness of the state's extensive racist history. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety posted photos on the signs on its Facebook account, along with a request for tips that would lead to the perpetrators.
Another sign read: "On Tuesday Nov. 27, thousands of Mississippians will vote for a senator. We need someone who respects the lives of lynch victims."
Although the intentions seem "well-meaning," hanging nooses from a tree is not only a painful trigger for Black Americans, but it's extremely inappropriate.
U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst issued the following statement, in response to the nooses and signs found this morning outside the Mississippi State Capitol:
"With our law enforcement partners, we are actively looking into these acts of hate and intimidation. Let me be perfectly clear - there is absolutely no place in our state for these unacceptable symbols or tactics to intimidate others. If we find evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a federal crime has occurred, these criminals will be swiftly prosecuted and held accountable. Let us all respond to these despicable acts by voting, working, raising our families, practicing our faith, and pursuing the American dream here in our great state without fear or trepidation and in harmony with our fellow citizens."
Governor Phil Bryant released a statement on Monday afternoon saying:
"The perpetrators of this act will be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I have contacted the Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance."
The Mississippi State Conference NAACP also responded with a statement regarding the incident:
"While much of the information about the incident is still unknown, we firmly believe the current climate of racial and cultural insensitivity has contributed to a decline in civil discourse.
We recognize this moment as further evidence of the need to actively engage in the political process and hold our elected officials accountable for their rhetoric and voting records. We will continue to defend the civil and human rights of everyone in Mississippi and will work diligently to defeat hate wherever or however it materializes.
We are mindful of the vicious cycle of intimidation and divisiveness that has created the current political climate that at best disenfranchises minority voters and at worst is a threat to their wellbeing. We will continue to encourage and support efforts to ensure all Mississippians can participate in the political process and become more civically engaged."
According to a police report, there may be surveillance footage of the people involved but investigators aren't releasing any information while the investigation is pending.
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The suspects were arrested Thursday night and charged with a hate crime for the #ShoppingWhileBlack incident at Walmart.
At a Walmart in West Monroe, La., two white men, Dylan Reynolds, 22, and Michael Walters, 24, followed a Black female shopper to her car.
When she was approached, she quickly threw her groceries in her car, as the men shouted racial slurs, including the n-word. As she drove away, they ran after her, hurling more slurs and even a shopping cart at her car.
Walmart surveillance cameras caught the two men on tape in the store, and after a police call out for information about the suspects, social media quickly identified the men, including the getaway car, a gray Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck that was seen on Reynolds' Facebook page.
On Thursday night, the two men were apprehended after a two-week manhunt for them, and booked into Ouachita Correctional Center. Bond is set at $20,000 for each man. The hate crime charge, if deemed a felony, is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Because she slowed for "speed bumps" in the parking lot, one of the men was able to strike her car with the shopping cart, causing over $1,000 in damages.
Walmart has yet to comment on the safety issue at their store.
Crimes that fall under Louisiana's hate crime law include: battery; aggravated battery; second degree battery; simple or aggravated criminal damage to property.
The account of the incident by police was on the arrest warrant:
"On 11/29/2018 the West Monroe Police Department was dispatched to Walmart (1025 Glenwood Drive West Monroe, LA) in reference to a disturbance/property damage call for service. Upon arrival, it was learned a black female victim was terrorized while exiting the store in the parking lot area of the business for no apparent reason. While the victim was leaving the store and attempting to load her purchased items in her vehicle, she was confronted by two white males. While in the parking lot the victim was yelled at and called a "n- - - - -". The female rushed the items in her vehicle and tried to escape the two white males while they were yelling racial slurs at her. As the victim fled the scene in her vehicle, one of the two white males chased after her on foot while pushing an empty shopping cart. The male violently crashed the shopping cart into the rear end area of the victim's vehicle as she slowed for "speed bumps" in the parking lot near the front entrance area of the business. That aggravated damage to the victim's vehicle not only caused her over one thousand dollars in damages to her vehicle but put her safety at risk while driving away from the two aggressors as well. After the damages were performed, both males got into a dark gray Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck and fled the area at a high rate of speed."
They could be facing hate-crime charges.
"I am an intelligent Black woman that has made a seat at the table," Karla Ferguson told DiversityInc. "My influence matters and that scares those that have to resort to fear tactics."
During Miami Art Week, one of the city's busiest times of the year, a Black-owned art gallery in Little Haiti was vandalized with a spray-painted swastika and profanity.
Karla Ferguson, owner of Yeelen Gallery, realized on Saturday morning there was a hate symbol defacing the outside of the building.
"An officer was actually parked outside the building and I went up to his squad car and told him that he had to take a look," Ferguson told DiversityInc. "He was visibly concerned and sympathetic to what it represented.
"I was told by the officer that this was likely going to be seen as a hate crime as the words 'destroy,' 'f**k' and the swastika were visible."
Ferguson, who is also an attorney, is well known in the area for creating a space to celebrate artists of color that the traditional art world usually doesn't include. She said she has "taken the business to the next level," now known as the Yeelen Group.
"Yeelen promotes diversity we tell the stories of marginalized groups, we stand for women's empowerment, we tell the stories from an African Diaspora perspective, LGBTQ rights and civil rights in general are represented when it comes to our exhibition programming," explained Ferguson.
"For the hateful that don't feel that we all deserve to be treated with respect, that don't feel civil rights are to be upheld we could be seen as a threat. We are about valuing marginalized people and showing the worth and humanity of their contributions to society."
Karla Ferguson, CEO, Yeelen Group
This is the first time a symbol of hate and threats have been directed toward her business. As Miami Art Week brings people all over the country into the area, it could have been locals or an outside influence.
Ferguson, whose business headquarters has been in Little Haiti since 2013, chose the neighborhood that is an area of Caribbean immigrants and locally owned shops, before gentrification started to occur.
Her activism through art and consulting is "aimed at providing exhibition and economic opportunities for all artists and particularly those that ask the tough questions, those that challenge our thinking and question inequities."
As a Black woman and an activist, Ferguson said being confronted with hate during a time when it's on the rise across the country only "reinforces that what I do is important, that I am on the right path."
Last month, in Los Angeles, four swastikas were found painted across the face of a Crenshaw mural depicting Black women.
"I am an intelligent Black woman that has made a seat at the table," Ferguson said. "My influence matters and that scares those that have to resort to fear tactics. I am the immigrant, the American Dream and there are people in our society that would love nothing more than to roll back the hands of time to when those that looked like me were considered three-fifths a human by law."
The difficult part for Ferguson was explaining the symbol of hate to her young daughters.
"They were upset; it makes them feel unsafe," she said. "I had to explain to my youngest what a swastika is and what it stands for. I reminded her that there are people who believe that one type of person is superior to others and that such thinking is wrong and ignorant. I told them that their ancestors survived far worse to make their lives possible and that we will continue to fight oppression and hold our heads up high while we do it.
"They know that I'm a fighter and they also know that they are as well, so we fight, we will continue to thrive, we Boss up."
A grand jury began hearing evidence in the case on Monday.
Vincent Serpico told the students that he wouldn't get in trouble for the tirade "because nobody cares."
Vincent Serpico, a teacher who taught at Piscataway High School since 2009, heard music on a boom box in a boys' bathroom. He deemed the lyrics "offensive" and ended up going off on special education students citing the song by yelling the the N-word and profanities. He has been fired.
The anti-Semitism, on the rise since Trump was elected, continues.
Elizabeth Midlarsky, a Jewish professor who teaches and researches the Holocaust at Columbia Teachers College, experienced first-hand the resurgence of anti-Semitic crimes across the country since President Trump took office.
The choir at his funeral wore black T-shirts with "SECURITY, #Justice For Jemel" printed on front.
Beatrice Roberson, the mother of Jemel Roberson, a security guard who was shot and killed by Midloathian police after detaining a shooter at a bar, said her son "died doing what he loved," and that the loss "hurts like crazy."
"He was a good person, he had a good heart," she said during his funeral at House of Hope.
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