Newspaper article International New York Times

3 Are Sought in U. of Mississippi Racist Act

Newspaper article International New York Times

3 Are Sought in U. of Mississippi Racist Act

Article excerpt

Officials are looking into the desecration of a statue of the first black student to enter the University of Mississippi. Three white students are being sought for interviews. They have all retained lawyers.

The University of Mississippi said Friday that the authorities were seeking interviews with three white students as part of their investigation into this week's desecration of a bronze statue of James Meredith, the first black student to enroll at the university.

In a statement released on Friday morning, the university said three 19-year-old freshmen from Georgia were refusing to speak with investigators about the episode, which was discovered on Sunday morning and in which a noose was placed around the neck of the statue. A flag with the Confederate battle emblem was left at the statue, which is on the campus here.

The university said two of the students, who were not identified because of an educational privacy law, had agreed to meet with investigators on Thursday morning, before skipping the session. The university later learned that those students and one other freshman had retained lawyers, who said they would not allow the men to be questioned without arrest warrants.

Danny Blanton, a university spokesman, said Friday that law enforcement officials were considering criminal charges against the students, but he said he did not know when a decision would be made. The university said campus officials "believe sufficient evidence exists to bring criminal charges against the suspects." Officials did not specify which charges were being considered.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been assisting the campus authorities with their inquiry.

"These actions may constitute a federal offense if they were intended to threaten someone because of their race and in connection with their use of an educational facility," said Daniel McMullen, an F.B.I. agent.

Mr. Meredith enrolled at the university in 1962 amid rioting that left two people dead and administrators say his campus statue represents a powerful symbol of progress. This most recent act of vandalism has set into motion a new round of soul-searching in a place where past and present still restlessly coexist. …

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