Over the weekend, the Confederate Statue on the Ole Miss campus was vandalized in the midst of a protest over the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. According to multiple reports, the vandalism took place Saturday afternoon during a protest in the city of Oxford.
The words ‘Spiritual Genocide’ were spray-painted onto the statue, which currently stands in ‘the Circle’ — a prominent location on the Ole Miss campus. 38-year-old Zachary Borenstein, a former Ole Miss student and current teacher at Simmons High School, was arrested and charged for vandalizing the statue.
The statue’s location has been an ongoing discussion since then-Intern Chancellor Larry Sparks announced the university’s intention to move it to the Confederate Cemetery located on the Ole Miss campus in March 2019. After clearing several hurdles throughout the process, the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning delayed the final vote on the move in January 2020.
At the time, new Chancellor Dr. Glenn Boyce reiterated his commitment to moving the statue. In his statement following this weekend’s events, he made a similar affirmation.
“We all recognize that this University has a difficult history with these issues that oftentimes places us at the forefront of complex and emotional discussions. We will not let our past stop us from working to make a better present and future for everyone on this campus. We must all be active participants on the journey of seeking solutions and inspiring the healing process.
This is a time for change. For me, that means moving the monument away from the center of our campus. That monument has divided this campus, and the process of its removal from the Circle is one I am committed to seeing through to completion. There is more to do, but this needs to happen,” Boyce’s statement partially read.
The protests in Oxford remained peaceful and no violence has been reported. Peaceful protests also occurred in Jackson, Biloxi and Petal. Demonstrators in Petal are also speaking out against Mayor Hal Marx, whose comments about Floyd’s death have caused controversy.
Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, has been charged with third-degree murder. Before his death, Floyd was seen on video telling the officers that he couldn’t breathe.