University police at the University of Mississippi are investigating who is behind the vandalism of a statue honoring integration, the Daily Mississippian reports.
The student newspaper reported that officers were called early Sunday morning after a contractor discovered a rope and a "pre-2003 Georgia state flag" (containing the Confederate symbol) hung from a statue of James Meredith, the first black student to attend Ole Miss.
"We are investigating the incident and will continue to work to catch those responsible," UPD Police Chief Calvin Sellers told the newspaper.
A contractor from an insulation company that was working on the school's library cooling tower claimed to see two young boys leaving the scene.
"I came up on a couple younger-looking boys by the loading dock that were yelling 'white power' and 'f—k n—gers' on my way back over towards the statue," Mark McMillan said. "When I rounded the corner of (the George Street House), I noticed the rope and the flag, and it definitely showed the Confederate flag."
According to McMillan the rope was tied around the statue's neck like a noose and the Confederate-style flag draped over its shoulders like a scarf.
"These individuals chose our university’s most visible symbol of unity and educational accessibility to express their disagreement with our values," School Chancellor Dan Jones said in a statement. "Their ideas have no place here, and our response will be an even greater commitment to promoting the values that are engraved on the statue—Courage, Knowledge, Opportunity, and Perseverance."
Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson called the act a "hate crime" at a Tuesday press conference at the state Capitol.
"It's a racial hate crime," he said, according to the Associated Press. "At what level do they get prosecuted? I don't know. But as long as we tolerate hate, we will continue to revisit history and the past of this state, and at some point we must move forward."
The Old Miss Alumni Association is offering $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the vandals, the paper reported.