Alpharetta, Georgia, native Grame Phillip Harris, 20, allegedly hung a noose on the statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. Meredith was the first Black student at the university. Harris has been indicted by the Justice Department on one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate Africa American students.
Harris is also accused of displaying Georgia’s former battle flag, which symbolized the Confederacy and is a symbol of White supremacy. The national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity suspended its Ole Miss chapter after the Meredith statue incident.
Ole Miss actually banned Confederate battle flags from football games in 2003 and changed its mascot, Confederate Colonel Reb, to a black bear in 2010. So a symbol of the Confederacy sticks out like a sore thumb.
“This shameful and ignorant act is an insult to all Americans and a violation of our most strongly-held values. No one should ever be made to feel threatened or intimidated because of what they look like or who they are,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press release. “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.”
Harris faces up to 11 years in prison for the incident, which also led to his fraternity chapter being closed. He is free on bond and transferred to the University of North Georgia – Oconee Campus.
In 1962, Meredith, now 81, was the first Black student admitted to Ole Miss following desegregation.
Meredith suggests the statue should be destroyed because it is being used as “a public relations tool for the powers that be at Ole Miss.” In his memoir he writes, “I have become a piece of art, a tourist attraction, a soothing image on the civil rights tour of the South, a public relations tool for the powers that be at Ole Miss, and feel-good icon of brotherly love and racial reconciliation, frozen in gentle docility.”
When President Obama was re-elected in 2012, White students burned his re-election signs and shouted racial slurs.