UPDATE: Election protest at Ole Miss escalates, 2 arrested

By Staff and wire reports


UPDATED at 8:30PM


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A protest at the University of Mississippi against the re-election of President Barack Obama grew into crowd of about 400 people with shouted racial slurs as rumors of a riot spread on social media. Two people were arrested on minor charges.

The university said in a statement Wednesday that the gathering at the student union began late Tuesday night with about 30 to 40 students, but grew within 20 minutes as word spread. Some students chanted political slogans while others used derogatory racial statements and profanity, the statement said.

The incident comes just after the 50th anniversary of violent rioting that greeted the forced integration of Ole Miss with the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith.

Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones promised an investigation and said “all of us are ashamed of the few students who have negatively affected the reputations of each of us and of our university.”

On Wednesday night, about 700 people held up candles and called for racial harmony outside the administrative building at the university in Oxford, countering Tuesday’s protest over Obama’s re-election.

Police were initially alerted to Tuesday’s uproar by people who saw Twitter posts about it. The students were told to leave, but about 100 came back later. One person was charged with public intoxication and another with failure to comply with police orders. There were no reports of injuries or property damage.

Rumors about the situation were fueled on Twitter after the university’s student journalists posted a video referring to the gathering as “riots.” The student newspaper posted a video of the crowd, but much of what the students said in it is unintelligible other than the “Hotty Toddy” cheer, which is common at football games and other school gatherings.

One picture that spread rapidly on social media shows people burning an Obama campaign sign, but the university hasn’t confirmed that the picture was taken on campus. The chancellor said some photos shared on social media showed things that were not seen by police on campus, but the reports of uncivil language and racial slurs appeared to be accurate.

Some students and teachers used social media to condemn the conflict.

Ellen Meacham, an Ole Miss journalism instructor, posted on Facebook that “anyone who calls that a riot has never read or heard anything about 1962.”

She was referring to when Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the university on Oct. 1, 1962. Federal authorities deployed more than 3,000 soldiers and more than 500 law enforcement officers to Oxford during the integration. An angry mob started an uprising that killed two white men. More than 200 people were injured. Ole Miss sponsored lectures and other events this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary.

“Now, 50 years later, about 2 percent of the overall student body goes out to protest when their guy doesn’t win the presidency and a portion of that small percentage displays the ugly strain that still infects too many in our student body,” Meacham wrote.

In a state with a 37 percent African-American population, Ole Miss now has a black enrollment of about 16.6 percent. The current student body president, Kim Dandridge, is the fourth black person elected to the post.

Jones said the campus was back to normal Wednesday.

The university was planning an event for Wednesday evening called the “We are One Mississippi Candlelight Walk” to condemn the protest, according to Thomas J. “Sparky” Reardon, vice chancellor for student affairs.


By Holbrook Mohr
The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A protest at the University of Mississippi against the re-election of President Barack Obama grew into crowd of about 400 people with shouted racial slurs as rumors of a riot spread on social media. Two people were arrested on minor charges.

The university said in a statement Wednesday that the gathering at the student union began late Tuesday night with about 30 to 40 students, but grew within 20 minutes as word spread. Some students chanted political slogans while others used derogatory racial statements and profanity, the statement said.

The incident comes just after the 50th anniversary of violent rioting that greeted the forced integration of Ole Miss with the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith.

Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones promised an investigation and said “all of us are ashamed of the few students who have negatively affected the reputations of each of us and of our university.”

Police were alerted by people who saw Twitter posts about it. The students were told to leave, but about 100 came back later. One person was charged with public intoxication and another with failure to comply with police orders. There were no reports of injuries or property damage.

Rumors about the situation were fueled on Twitter after the university’s student journalists posted a video referring to the gathering as “riots.” The student newspaper posted a video of the crowd, but much of what the students said in it is unintelligible other than the “Hotty Toddy” cheer, which is common at football games and other school gatherings.

One picture that spread rapidly on social media shows people burning an Obama campaign sign, but the university hasn’t confirmed that the picture was taken on campus. The chancellor said some photos shared on social media showed things that were not seen by police on campus, but the reports of uncivil language and racial slurs appeared to be accurate.

Some students and teachers used social media to condemn the conflict.

Ellen Meacham, an Ole Miss journalism instructor, posted on Facebook that “anyone who calls that a riot has never read or heard anything about 1962.”

She was referring to when Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the university on Oct. 1, 1962. Federal authorities deployed more than 3,000 soldiers and more than 500 law enforcement officers to Oxford during the integration. An angry mob started an uprising that killed two white men. More than 200 people were injured. Ole Miss sponsored lectures and other events this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary.

“Now, 50 years later, about 2 percent of the overall student body goes out to protest when their guy doesn’t win the presidency and a portion of that small percentage displays the ugly strain that still infects too many in our student body,” Meacham wrote.

In a state with a 37 percent African-American population, Ole Miss now has a black enrollment of about 16.6 percent. The current student body president, Kim Dandridge, is the fourth black person elected to the post.

Jones said the campus was back to normal Wednesday.

The university was planning an event for Wednesday evening called the “We are One Mississippi Candlelight Walk” to condemn the protest, according to Thomas J. “Sparky” Reardon, vice chancellor for student affairs.

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Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this report.

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Follow Mohr at http://twitter.com/holbrookmohr

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UPDATE: Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute on Racial Reconciliation, said the institute will host a “We Are One Mississippi” candlelight walk at 6 p.m. today. It will begin at the Union Plaza and proceed to the Circle, near the Lyceum, where participants will collectively recite the University of Mississippi Creed, which includes the statement, “I believe in respect for the dignity of each person. I believe in fairness and civility.”

UPDATE: Statement from the University of Mississippi

OXFORD – University police were notified by students shortly before midnight Tuesday that Twitter chatter was indicating students were gathering near the student union to protest the results of the election.

The officers found 30-40 students gathered in front of the union, and over the next 20 minutes the gathering had grown to more than 400 students, many of whom were chanting political slogans. The crowd was ordered to disperse by university police, and after about 25 minutes students had returned to residence halls. About 100 students gathered again at one hall, and university police dispersed the group and made two arrests for disorderly conduct, including one for public intoxication and one for failure to comply with police orders.

“While we are grateful that there were no injuries and there was no property damage, we are very disappointed in those students who took a very immature and uncivil approach to expressing their views about the election,” said University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones. “The gathering seems to have been fueled by social media, and the conversation should have stayed there.”

“Unfortunately, early news reports quoted social media comments that were inaccurate. Too, some photographs published in social media portrayed events that police did not observe on campus. Nevertheless, the reports of uncivil language and shouted racial epithets appear to be accurate and are universally condemned by the university, student leaders and the vast majority of students who are more representative of our university creed.”

Jones said, “Parents are being notified that it’s a normal day on campus and that one of America’s safest campuses is safe again this morning, though all of us are ashamed of the few students who have negatively affected the reputations of each of us and of our university. We are initiating a thorough review of this incident to determine the facts and any follow-up actions that may be necessary.”

Jones said, “We are reminding our students of relevant statements within the university creed: The University of Mississippi is a community of learning dedicated to nurturing excellence in intellectual inquiry and personal character in an open and diverse environment. As a voluntary member of this community: I believe in respect for the dignity of each person. I believe in fairness and civility. I believe in personal and professional integrity.”

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UPDATE – Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones sent out the following email to Ole Miss supporters about last night’s incident …

There are media reports of incidents on our campus last evening in the wake of the election results being announced. First, let me assure all of you that the campus is quiet and safe this morning for all of our students. While the investigation into last night’s events continues, we are grateful there are no reports of injuries or property damage.

The reports of the use of racial language by some have been confirmed by our campus police. The University leadership strongly condemns this kind of behavior and is embarrassed that any students associated with the university would use this kind of language. Our university creed calls for the respect of each individual and for fairness and civility. The investigation of this event will be thorough and individuals found in violation of any law will be referred to appropriate authorities. Individuals found in violation of university policy will be dealt with appropriately through the student conduct process.

As we have acknowledged throughout this year of recognizing fifty years of racial integration at our university, despite evidence of progress, we still live in an imperfect world. All of us in the university community must recommit ourselves to condemn hate and to continue our work to assure our university is a safe and welcoming place for every individual every day.

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Report from last night …

Hundreds of Ole Miss students exchanged racial epithets and violent, politicized chants in response to the announcement of the re-election of President Barack Obama Tuesday night in Oxford, The Daily Mississippian reported.

An argument started around midnight quickly grew. The University Police Department responded to a fire alarm being pulled in Brown Hall as crowds gathered near Kincannon and Stockard dorms, The Daily Mississippian reported. The disagreement moved to the Grove at one point.

UPD restored order to the campus, according to the report.

Click here for the story.