By Talbert Toole
Two Confederate groups—Confederate 901 and The Hiwaymen—have organized a “Mississippi Stands” rally in Oxford for Feb. 23. The rally comes in the midst of the Students Against Social Injustice’s (SASI) 22nd United Students Against Sweatshop national convention, also hosted the same weekend.
SASI is the local chapter of the national student-led organization United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). According to the group’s mission statement, they are committed to providing a safe, welcoming environment for marginalized persons on campus.
The student organization has a history of fighting back against confederate iconography, according to the USAS website.
The Mississippi Stands rally is in protest of the administration’s decision in the removal of several elements members call traditions to the school such as the Conferdate battle flag at football games, Colonel Reb and the song “Dixie” performed by the Ole Miss Band.
Rally members have also expressed through Facebook the changes are against the contextualization of historical areas on the UM campus.
A spokesperson from Confederate 901 told Hottytoddy.com in a Facebook message that “only cowards attack the dead. Tell your commie buddies we are coming to crash their party.”
The spokesperson, who did not relinquish his or her name, also said that only communists and globalists support the destruction of our nation and its history.
In a video posted by Confederate 901 Wednesday night, members voiced that they would be in attendance in support of the Confederacy.
A Growing Feud
On Nov. 28, members of SASI, along with staff and faculty members of the university, formed a protest to demand that the UM administration remove Ole Miss’ confederate statue from campus grounds.
The protesters also delivered a list of demands to former Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter at The Lyceum:
1) “The University of Mississippi administration must remove the Confederate statue from campus.
2) The administration must implement a publicized hate speech policy to protect students from the racist violence we experience on campus.
3) Regardless of who is in the Chancellor’s position, the administration will meet with us next semester to discuss these demands.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, SASI issued a statement regarding the “Mississippi Stands” rally:
“On January 14, 2019, Students Against Social Injustice were informed of a rally planned by George “K-Rack” Johnson, of the Memphis-based group Confederate 901, and Billy Mack Helton, also known as Billy Sessions, of the Arkansas-based group the Hiwaymen, as part of an effort to disrupt the United Students Against Sweatshops’ 22nd National Convention, an event planned with the intention of educating students on how they can become great organizers.
The Confederate Memorial statue on campus is one that represents hate. It is a celebration of honor for Confederate soldiers that knowingly fought for the institution of slavery and for the demise and degradation of black lives. As long as the statue remains on campus, it will continue to function as a tool to uphold these values and to allow room for racism to remain rampant on campus and in the Oxford community.
The Mississippi Stands Rally poses an imminent threat to students on campus, as both planners for this event have encouraged their followers to bring weapons to other events in the past, and have stated that they will “be vigilant” and do “what the law will not do for them,” and that our existence as a student organization is a threat that protectors of confederate ideals will “no longer tolerate.”
The university’s primary duty should be to facilitate educational opportunities for students while maintaining their safety, not to serve as a playground for extremist militant groups affiliated with white supremacists.
For these reasons, Students Against Social Injustice will continue to stand by our demand that the University of Mississippi removes the statue from campus as well as our decision to host the USAS 22nd National Convention. As it is an educational event, we will not be engaging with participants of this rally, and will be requesting means of precaution from University Administration and UPD.”
The Mississippi Stands rally caught attention on social media mid-January. Confederate 901 posted signs that its protestors will carry on the day of the rally. The sign the group posted reads “Confederate monuments are dedicated to our dead not white supremacy!!!”
Annie Twitty, professor of history, said the University of Mississippi has yet to fully reckon with the way it has benefited from slavery, segregation and white supremacy.
She said the state of Mississippi has an approximately 38 percent population of black residents, and the university has a 10 to 15 percent black student population. Twitty said those students have voiced repeatedly they do not feel welcomed.
“Given that a monument to those who fought and died to keep them in bondage continues to stand in one of the most prominent locations on our campus, I can’t say I blame them,” Twitty said.
The University of Mississippi is one of the last flagship institutions to have Confederate symbolism on its campus, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Recently, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill removed the remnants and plaques of its former controversial Confederate statue—Silent Sam.
The statue itself was taken down by protestors in August 2018.
The removal of the remnants and plaques came hours after the university’s Chancellor Carol Folt announced she had made the decision to step down from her position at the end of the school year.
Twitty said she encourages all Mississippians to read the Confederate’s own statements regarding why they made the decision to secede from the Union.
“They were not ashamed of their willingness to tear the nation in two in order to protect the right to continue holding other human beings in bondage,” she said. “They weren’t bashful about their motivations.”
Twitty said the monument recognizing those who gave their lives in defense of slavery has no place on a college campus.
“Slavery, segregation, and white supremacy may be the University of Mississippi’s past, but they’re not its future,” she said.
The SASI National Convention will take place Friday, Feb. 22 and 23 at the University of Mississippi. Those interested in attending the convention can register here.
The Mississippi Stands rally is slated to take place Feb. 23 at 1 p.m., beginning at the monument on The Square’s Courthouse lawn and ending at the monument in the university’s Circle.