After a photo started circulating on social media, showing three fraternity brothers holding guns and posing in front of a historic sign honoring Emmett Till’s memory, a huge controversy started brewing as many people were outraged at the behavior displayed by the young men.
The sign is seen full of bullet holes, while the Ole Miss students are holding various rifles. The memorial is now gone and will be replaced by a new one in October.
It was placed at the location where Till’s body was found in 1955. The 14-year-old black boy was killed and tortured by two white men after he was accused of flirting with a white woman.
The Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica broke the story and was able to get a statement from Larry D. Sparks, University of Mississippi interim Chancellor, and it read: “The incident occurred off campus, did not rise to the level of a threat per federal authorities, and was not part of any university-affiliated event. As a community of learning and a state institution, we have limits on the tools available to remedy this offensive behavior….”
Two of the three students were identified as Ben LeClere and John Lowe. The three of them got suspended from their fraternity house, Kappa Alpha.
Taylor Anderson, president of Ole Miss’ Kappa Alpha Order, said in a statement: “The photo is inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. It does not represent our chapter. We have and will continue to be in communication with our national organization and the University.”
LeClere posted the image on Instagram on March 1, which is Lowe’s birthday. The accompanying caption reportedly read: “One of Memphis’s finest and the worst influence I’ve ever met.”
Many immediately called for justice, and the arrest of the boys and the outrage grew even stronger when the picture gained traction and started being “liked” and shared by users of the social network.
According to reports, the students could face criminal charges for their actions.
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Three University of Mississippi students have been suspended from the Kappa Alpha fraternity and face possible investigation by the Department of Justice after posing with guns in front of a bullet-riddled sign honoring slain civil rights icon Emmett Till. The photo was posted on Ben LeClere’s private Instagram account in March and obtained by ProPublica and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. LeClere is on the left holding a shot gun. His fraternity brother, John Lowe, squats below the sign. Can you help us identify the third Kappa Alpha fraternity brother in this photo? Or the person who may have taken the photo? Email tips to Mississippi@ProPublica.org or send us a DM. CORRECTION: A previous post misidentified John Lowe as holding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Lowe is squatting beneath the sign without a rifle. We need help identifying the fraternity brother on the right. #emmetttill #olemiss
A fourth unidentified man, who was responsible for taking the picture, might also face penalties, but that has not been confirmed yet.
Officials have described the photo as extremely distasteful, and it does not look like the culprits are going to get any support or sympathy from higher-ups.
Their actions have drawn significant amounts of negative attention to them over the last few days, with many people openly attacking them on social media and criticizing their outrageous.
The students themselves have not responded to the considerable controversy, although many have pointed out that it would probably be wise of them to keep quiet and maintain a low profile in the whole ordeal.
That, however, may not save them from the charges that they will likely have to face in the upcoming weeks/months, according to official reports.
A few years ago, one student from the same university pleaded guilty in a similar situation involving a James Meredith statue, and he was ordered to spend six months in prison.