Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson is calling for hate crime charges after four white high school students tossed a noose around the neck of a black football player and “yanked” the rope.
According to a press conference held on Monday, the incident took place on October 13 in the locker room of Stone High School in Wiggins, Mississippi.
Johnson said, “No child should be walking down the hall or in a locker room and be accosted with a noose around their neck. This is 2016, not 1916. This is America. This is a place where children should go to school and feel safe in their environment.”
Via The Washington Post:
“In Mississippi, white students used a real noose on their black teammate,” Johnson said. The student was not injured but felt “terrified,” he told ESPN.
“If you tolerate this incident today,” Johnson said in Monday’s news conference, “you can tolerate much violent behavior in the future.”
An NAACP spokeswoman told the Associated Press that the student returned to practice afterward.
Initially, the Stone County Sheriff’s Department discouraged the student’s parents from filing a police report because one of the white students’ parents is a former law enforcement officer, Johnson said.
Sheriff’s Capt. Ray Boggs disputed that account, saying he told Stacey Payton, the mother, that filing a criminal case could stir resentment among some students and bring her son troubles at school, according to the AP.
“It’s probably one of the hardest cases I’ll ever handle in my career, because of the nature of it,” Boggs, who is black, told the AP. “Have I ever had to deal with something like this? No, not from a high school.”
Sheriff Mike Farmer confirmed that Payton spoke with Boggs, telling WLOX that the department did not know any of the students involved other than the victim.
“He wasn’t trying to discourage her. He just wanted her to be sure,” Farmer said.
All the accused students are younger than 17 and any charges will be filed in juvenile court, according to the sheriff’s department.
Johnson said he wants to see the students charged as adults. He said the same students involved in the incident had come to school earlier in the year “brandishing Confederate flags on their vehicles.” He called for a hate crime investigation and demanded that school officials expel anyone who participated.
“Allowing students to commit blatant hate crimes without severe consequences sends a message to students that their safety and well-being are not valuable enough to be protected,” the NAACP said in a statement Monday.
Johnson said the parents had not been notified of any disciplinary action taken against the white students.
See video from the press conference below.
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