University of Mississippi issues warning on eve of Confederate rally on campus
The University of Mississippi on Friday advised students and staff to avoid parts of campus where two pro-Confederate groups plan to protest over the weekend.
Ole Miss issued the warning in an announcement circulated ahead of the “Mississippi Stands Rally” expected to culminate Saturday afternoon at a Confederate monument located on the college’s campus.
“On Saturday afternoon between 1-5 p.m., we urge everyone to avoid the area of University Avenue and University Circle,” the announcement said.
An event page created on Facebook for the rally said that the two groups, Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen, plan to meet at 1 p.m. near a Confederate statue located in downtown Oxford, Miss., prior to marching roughly a mile to a similar monument on the Ole Miss campus.
“This is an event to draw the line in the sand,” organizers wrote on the event page. “For over a decade the administration and faculty have completely disregarded and disrespected the traditions of a once great southern university.”
Among the grievances cited on the Facebook page are the school’s decision to stop flying the Confederate battle flag at football games; the retirement of Colonel Reb, the school’s former mascot; efforts to recontextualize Confederate monuments located on campus; and plans to potentially remove the statue where the rally is slated to end, a memorial erected in 1906 celebrating Confederate soldiers from Lafayette County killed in the Civil War.
“If you are fed up with this Political Correctness BS and sick and tired of this mess happening then please join us,” organizers wrote on the Facebook page.
A group page on Facebook for Confederate 901 describes its members as “patriots who stand up for the Constitution and freedom.” The group is based in Memphis, Tenn., and led by Billy Sessions, an activist who participated in the infamous 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We do Patriot [expletive],” reads the succinct “About” section on the Hiwaymen’s official Facebook page. The group has previously hosted Confederate rallies throughout Arkansas, and several of its members similarly attended the “Unite the Right” rally, where clashes between participants and counterprotesters resulted in chaos that culminated in multiple deaths.
Similarly billed as a rally held in support of a Confederate monument slated for removal, the 2017 “Unite the Right” demonstration turned chaotic when attendees including white nationalists and neo-Nazis began brawling with counterprotesters. Two law enforcement officers died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the chaos, and Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, was murdered when a “Unite the Right” attendee drove a car into a crowd of protesters.
Campus police at Ole Miss told a local Fox affiliate that there will be a “heavy police presence” during Saturday’s rally.
“Safety is our top priority this week, and we remain fully committed to preserving a secure campus environment,” Ole Miss administrator said earlier this week.
Bill Sposato, the organizer of a counterprotest that had been scheduled to occur on campus during Saturday’s rally, has called off the event over security concerns and inclement weather expected, meanwhile.
“The problem we kept facing is that the solution would either be very safe but ineffective as platforms, or it would be an effective platform, but the university did not feel it could provide security arrangements that would be satisfactory to us and themselves,” he said in a Facebook post Thursday, the Oxford Eagle reported.