JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A white Mississippi lawmaker showed no expression late Monday as 11 black colleagues made impassioned speeches condemning his online remark that people should be lynched for removing Confederate monuments.
Legislators were working at the Capitol for the first time since Republican Rep. Karl Oliver of Winona posted the remark to Facebook on May 20. His post came after New Orleans pulled down three Confederate statues and a monument to white supremacy. He said Louisiana leaders were acting like Nazis and said, in all capital letters that they should be “LYNCHED.”
Oliver posted a general apology on Facebook on May 22. He said Monday he stands by that apology and he offered one-on-one apologies to some black colleagues.
Some of those who spoke Monday night had received apologies; others had not.
Democratic Rep. Robert Johnson of Natchez, an attorney who sometimes works in other states, said Oliver’s remark had reinforced the worst stereotypes about Mississippi being backward and resistant to change.
“When say you’re from Mississippi, the first thing you have to prove is you’re not stupid,” Johnson said.
Johnson said his best friend’s father died in a car bombing in their hometown in the 1960s. Democratic Rep. Kathy Sykes of Jackson said one of her relatives was lynched in Mississippi in the 1940s. Democratic Rep. Rufus Straughter of Belzoni said his brother was beaten in 1959 in Yazoo City after a white woman falsely accused him of cursing at her.
“Every time I have heard or seen anything that dealt with a lynching … somebody on the end of the rope looked like me,” said Democratic Rep. John Hines of Greenville.
Democratic Rep. Bryant Clark of Pickens said Oliver sought him out Monday to express regret for the lynching remark. The two men sit near each other in the House chamber, and Clark said Oliver told him the post “did not come from his heart.”
Clark said he accepts that, but thinks Oliver should stand before the House and offer a broader apology. Oliver did not do that. He left the Capitol without responding to the speeches.
A Senate committee on Monday rejected a resolution urging Oliver to resign. The House Rules Committee did not consider a separate resolution calling for a House vote to expel Oliver as a member.
The expulsion resolution was filed by Democratic Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus. She said Oliver has not apologized to her. She also said an anonymous person tore up a copy of her expulsion resolution and left it on her desk in the House — something she considered to be a threat.
Democratic Rep. Gregory Holloway of Hazlehurst, who did not give a speech Monday, said earlier in the day that Oliver had sought him out to apologize.
“I mean, I have to accept it,” Holloway said. “I cannot judge what’s in his heart. Only God can do that.”
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