Ole Miss fraternity expels member who appeared to make ape-like sounds toward Black protester

A fraternity at the University of Mississippi, where a member last week jeered a Black woman protester by appearing to make ape-like sounds and gestures, said the man has been expelled from the organization.

NBC News has not independently identified the former member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, who was a part of a large, rowdy group that surrounded and badgered pro-Palestinian protesters at Ole Miss. But in a statement Sunday, the fraternity said it pinpointed the man captured in a viral video and disassociated itself from him.

“Phi Delta Theta General Headquarters is aware of the video regarding the student protest at the University of Mississippi,” the statement read. “The racist actions in the video were those of an individual and are antithetical to the values of Phi Delta Theta and the Mississippi Alpha chapter. The responsible individual was removed from membership on Friday, May 3.”

Meanwhile, the school said it is launching an investigation into the conduct of at least one student during the counterprotests. Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce sent a letter to students and staff Friday noting that Ole Miss leaders were aware of behaviors that were “offensive, hurtful, and unacceptable, including actions that conveyed hostility and racist overtones” at Thursday’s protest.

“While student privacy laws prohibit us from commenting on any specific student, we have opened one student conduct investigation,” he wrote. “We are working to determine whether more cases are warranted.”

Videos of the protest posted on social media show the larger crowd, of about 200 seemingly mostly white young people, surrounding and shouting down the multiracial group of about 30 pro-Palestinian protesters.

Another video showed the counterprotesters singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” to drown out the chants from the pro-Palestinian protesters, while yet another video showed a large crowd of men, including two male students who appear to be white, in American flag overalls, yelling in the direction of a Black female graduate student. In the video, the woman appears to be walking toward the crowd while recording them on her phone.

The woman and the two men, whose identities NBC News has not independently verified, did not respond to requests for comment. 

On the right side of the frame, another man can be seen jumping up and down and appearing to make a noise to simulate an ape. That person has not been identified.

Members of the crowd also chanted, “Lock her up!” as police guided the woman away from the hecklers, in a video shared on social media by Rep. Mike Collins, R-Georgia. 

Collins, who heralded the counterprotest on social media last week, said Monday that while he still stands by the counterprotest, if someone in the video was “found to have treated another human being improperly because of their race, they should be punished appropriately, and will hopefully seek forgiveness.”

pic.twitter.com/uxhFz1Lqfp

— Rep. Mike Collins (@RepMikeCollins) May 6, 2024

The racial elements of the encounter led many observers online to point out Mississippi’s long and sordid history of violent racism against Black people. Its senators voted to send all of its Black people back to Africa more than 100 years ago. When the University of Mississippi was ordered by a federal court to admit Black students in 1962, 2,000 white people rioted against the arrival of the new student, James Meredith

The initial demonstration in a fenced-off area of the quad took place as colleges across the country have become backdrops for pro-Palestinian protests ranging from small and peaceful to shockingly violent. 

In a statement sent to the news media shortly after the encounter, Ole Miss said it was “committed to supporting the rights of our students, faculty and employees to express their views in a respectful manner and to assemble peacefully as enshrined in the First Amendment. While today’s demonstration was passionate and several protesters and counterprotesters received warnings from law enforcement over their actions, there were no arrests, no injuries reported, and the demonstration ended peacefully.”

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This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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