OXFORD, Miss. — The FBI on Tuesday was helping investigate who tied a noose around the neck of a University of Mississippi statue of James Meredith, who, in 1962, became the first black student to enroll in what was then an all-white Southern college.
University police on Sunday morning found the rope noose and, on the statue’s face, a pre-2003 Georgia state flag with a Confederate battle symbol, said campus police chief Calvin Sellers. Two men were seen near the statue early Sunday and investigators were looking at surveillance footage.
‘‘It’s a racial hate crime,’’ Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson said Tuesday after a news conference at the state Capitol in Jackson. ‘‘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.’’
In a statement, chancellor Dan Jones condemned the action as contrary to the values of the university community.
‘‘These individuals chose our university’s most visible symbol of unity and educational accessibility to express their disagreement with our values,’’ Jones said. ‘‘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.’’
About 150 Ole Miss students, black and white, rallied around the Meredith statue Tuesday to protest the vandalism, according to Charlie Mitchell, a journalism professor who attended the event.