Three white students at the University of Mississippi have been suspended from their fraternity after a photo showed them posing with guns in front of a memorial for Emmett Till.
According to ProPublica, Ben LeClere is pictured holding a shotgun while an unidentified schoolmate is seen holding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The third student, John Lowe, is crouching in front of the two men.
LeClere reportedly posted the picture to an Instagram page on March 1, which is also Lowe’s birthday.
“One of Memphis’s finest and the worst influence I’ve ever met,” the caption for the photo read.
In the photo, the men are seen posing in front of a roadside plaque commemorating the site where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River.
The plaque appears to be covered in bullet holes. It remains unclear whether the students shot the memorial or if the holes were already present.
The sign, which is part of a memorial effort by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, marks the place where Till's body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River in August 1955. Since the plaque was first erected, it has repeatedly been vandalized, including an August 2018 incident wherein the sign was shot several times.
Days after LeClere posted the photo, an anonymous person filed a bias report to the university’s Office of Student Conduct. In the complaint, the person also mentioned there was a fourth person present who took the photo.
“The photo is on Instagram with hundreds of ‘likes,’ and no one said a thing,” read the complaint, which was obtained by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. “I cannot tell Ole Miss what to do, I just thought it should be brought to your attention.”
The photo has since been removed from LeClere’s Instagram account, where it received 274 likes.
On July 24, Kappa Alpha suspended the students after the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting sent a copy of the photo to fraternity officials on campus.
“The photo is inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. It does not represent our chapter,” Taylor Anderson, president of Ole Miss’ Kappa Alpha Order, wrote in an email to ProPublica. “We have and will continue to be in communication with our national organization and the University.”
Kappa Alpha, which notably calls Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee its “spiritual founder” on the website, has experienced several racist incidents in the chapter’s history.
In 2002, students wore blackface at a Kappa Alpha Halloween party at the University of Virginia.
U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi in Oxford also said the photo has been forwarded to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for investigation.
“We will be working with them closely,” he told reporters Thursday.
The university has also asked the FBI for assistance investigating the three men seen in the photo.
(Photo: CBS News)
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