In the photo, three young white men are posing in the dark in front of the Emmett Till memorial. Two of them have guns on either side of the sign, and the other is kneeling in front of it. All of them are smiling.
The three men are Ben LeClere, holding a shotgun while standing in front of the bullet-pocked sign. His fraternity brother, John Lowe, is the one squatting below the sign. A third fraternity member stands on the other side with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
ProPublica first published the photos of the University of Mississippi students. The story has now gone viral and the young men have been suspended from their fraternity, Kappa Alpha. It’s surprising that the three men were even suspended from Kappa Alpha. The fraternity which honors Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as its “spiritual founder” on its website and students wore blackface at a Kappa Alpha sponsored Halloween party at the University of Virginia in 2002, sparking controversy.
They are also facing a possible investigation by the Department of Justice for posing with the guns in front of the bullet-riddled sign honoring Till, a slain civil rights icon.
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The memorial is the site where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River. The 14-year-old black youth was tortured and murdered in August 1955. An all-white, all-male jury acquitted two white men accused of the slaying.
LeClere posted the picture on Lowe’s birthday on March 1 on his private Instagram with the message “one of Memphis’s finest and the worst influence I’ve ever met.”
What’s not yet known is if the students shot the sign themselves or if it was already like that. The sign has been repeatedly vandalized, most recently in August 2018.
A good Samaritan saw the photo on LeClere’s account and filed a bias report to the university’s Office of Student Conduct.
“The photo is on Instagram with hundreds of ‘likes,’ and no one said a thing,” said the complaint, a copy of which was reviewed by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. “I cannot tell Ole Miss what to do, I just thought it should be brought to your attention.”
But the university will not do anything to punish the students because it was off-campus. The FBI also said it was done investigating because it did not pose a threat.