Amid 'Racist Jeers' at Protest, One Pol Offers a High-Five

White Ole Miss counterprotester appears to make monkey noises; Rep. Mike Collins weighs in
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 4, 2024 6:00 AM CDT
Black Pro-Palestine Protester Taunted, Heckled at Ole Miss
A counter-protester taunts graduate student Jaylin R. Smith with a piece of bread during a protest in support of Palestinians on Thursday on the school campus in Oxford, Mississippi.   (HG Biggs/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)

Israel-Hamas war demonstrations at the University of Mississippi turned ugly this week when one counterprotester appeared to make monkey noises and gestures at a Black student in a raucous gathering that was endorsed by a far-right congressman from Georgia. "Ole Miss taking care of business," Republican US Rep. Mike Collins wrote Friday on X, with a link to the video showing the racist jeers. The AP left voicemail messages for Collins on Friday at his offices in Georgia and Washington and sent an email to his spokesperson, asking for an explanation of what Collins meant. There was no immediate response. The taunting brought sharp criticism on and off campus. "Students were calling for an end to genocide. They were met with racism," James M. Thomas, a sociology professor at the University of Mississippi, wrote Friday on X.

The Rev. Cornell William Brooks, a former president and CEO of the NAACP and professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, wrote on X that a white man mocking a Black woman as a monkey "isn't about 'Stand With Israel' or 'Free Palestine.' This is protest as performative racism." Collins was first elected to Congress in 2022 and has made several social media posts criticizing campus protests. Nobody was arrested during the demonstration Thursday at the University of Mississippi, where hecklers vastly outnumbered war protesters. According to a count by AP, more than 2,400 arrests have occurred on 46 US university or college campuses since April 17 during demonstrations against the war. The student newspaper, the Daily Mississippian, reported that about 30 protesters on the Oxford campus billed themselves as UMiss for Palestine.

About 76% of the university's students were white and about 11% were Black in 2022-23, the most recent data available on the school's website. University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce said the school is committed to people expressing their views. He said some statements made on campus Thursday were "offensive and unacceptable." In another statement Friday, Boyce said one "student conduct investigation" had been opened, and that university leaders were "working to determine whether more cases are warranted." "To be clear, people who say horrible things to people because of who they are will not find shelter or comfort on this campus," he said. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, meanwhile, reposted a video on X that showed counterprotesters on the campus singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." "Warms my heart," Reeves wrote. "I love Mississippi!"

(More University of Mississippi stories.)

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