JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi lawmaker who said weeks ago that people should be lynched for removing Confederate monuments is now criticizing the vandalism of a historical marker about a lynching that galvanized the civil rights movement.
State Rep. Karl Oliver’s district includes the community of Money, where black teenager Emmett Till was kidnapped and killed in 1955 for whistling at a white woman in a grocery store.
During the past two weeks, someone obliterated photos and other information about Till on a state marker outside the shuttered store. Vinyl was peeled from one side of the cast aluminum marker.
“This cowardly act of destruction that was inflicted on this particular historical monument should serve as further evidence of the need for, and responsibility of, our state’s leadership to maintain and protect these precious historical insights to our past,” Oliver said.
His statement was first reported in the Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper. Through a House spokeswoman Friday, Oliver confirmed to The Associated Press that the statement came from him.
“This is the exact same destruction I seek to prevent across our state,” said Oliver, who has previously said he will push for a state law to prevent the destruction of historical monuments.
In a Facebook post May 20, Oliver wrote that Louisiana leaders were acting like Nazis by taking down Confederate monuments in New Orleans. He wrote, in all capital letters, that they should be “LYNCHED.”
After coming under sharp criticism and being stripped of a committee leadership position, Oliver posted an apology May 22 on Facebook. When lawmakers met in special session June 5 for the first time since the post, Oliver privately apologized to some black colleagues but he sat in silence as 11 members of the Legislative Black Caucus gave speeches denouncing what he had said.
The Till maker was erected in 2011 as part the Mississippi Freedom Trail, a series of state-funded markers at significant civil rights sites. Allan Hammons, whose public relations firm made the Till marker, is repairing it at an estimated cost of about $500. When the marker was new, it cost about $8,000.
The damaged sign is outside the long-closed Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market, where a 21-year-old white shopkeeper, Carolyn Bryant, said Till whistled at her in August 1955. The 14-year-old, who was visiting from Chicago, was kidnapped, tortured and killed because of her accusation. His mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted on an open-casket funeral in Chicago so people could see her son’s mutilated body.
An all-white Mississippi jury acquitted Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half brother, J.W. Milam, in the killing, but the two men later confessed in a paid interview with Look magazine.
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