Intro by WAJ — The post below by Leslie Eastman explores the alleged “race riot” at the University of Mississippi the night of Obama’s victory.  The Ole Miss Chancellor issued a statement confirming that “racial epithets” were “shouted,” without any specificity as to what they were or by how many students. The Chancellor’s Office told Leslie the details were in the police report, yet as of this writing the Chancellor’s Office  has not released the police report to Legal Insurrection despite repeated requests, including by me.  We were given the run-around by the Chancellor’s Office, first told we could have it, then told it would have to wait until Monday, then told the police would mail it to us Monday (which of course is a holiday and there is no mail pick up).  Frankly, I find this slow-walking of the evidence by the Ole Miss administration outrageous in a racially and politically charged atmosphere.

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It is with a healthy amount of skepticism that readers should view reports about “race riots” at the University of Mississippi after Nov. 6th election results were known. Specifically, AP started its report by indicating a “crowd of 400″ people “shouted racial slurs” (emphasis added):

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A protest at the University of Mississippi against the re-election of President Barack Obama grew into crowd of about 400 people with shouted racial slurs as rumors of a riot spread on social media. Two people were arrested on minor charges.

The university said in a statement Wednesday that the gathering at the student union began late Tuesday night with about 30 to 40 students, but grew within 20 minutes as word spread. Some students chanted political slogans while others used derogatory racial statements and profanity, the statement said.

The incident comes just after the 50th anniversary of violent rioting that greeted the forced integration of Ole Miss with the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith.

The New York Times and The Washington Post have reported the incident as a racial disturbance.

A more detailed review of the actual information available fails to confirm any riot-like hostilities during the event or provide specifics regarding the alleged racial slurs. 

While any racial slur should be condemned, it makes a difference to how the protest is viewed if it was an isolated shout by one or two students, or if the crowd as a whole was involved.  The news reports suggested it was a racist crowd.

Here’s the Ole Miss Protest Video which started the claims of a “race riot” (language warning):

While an F-bomb is clearly heard, the only race-based item comes from the clearly African-American narrator, who dismissively says, “It’s a majority white people– that’s all I have to say about that.”  There were black students in the crowd (for example, at 0:54) and there is nothing racial in the video.

A University of Mississippi press release stated that “racial epithets” were “shouted,” without any specificity.

Tom Eppes, the university’s Chief Communication officer, confirmed to me that the University relied on statements in the official Police Report.  I formally requested a copy of the report, which Eppes promised to provide.  I also requested a copy from the Ole Miss Police.  However, despite following up several times on these requests, we have not received the report yet.

While it is impossible to verify whether any students shouted racial epithets, it is clear that this was not a “race riot” and that the crowd did not partake in such racist slurs.

Based on information we have received from Ole Miss students, and subsequent coverage of the demonstration,the demonstration was a college party crowd that got a bit too wild and was broken up police.  

Piecing together the history, a small gathering of students were venting about their disappointment in the election results just as the outcome was known. Twitter and texting lead other students to join the spontaneous demonstration.

“There was no riot, just large concentrations of people standing around in a small area. That’s why the police dispersed it,” said freshman Shea Throckmorton.

A Time Magazine piece also managed to quote a student, Nicholas Carr.

“I was there the whole time,” Carr told WMC-TV. “There was one sign lit on fire. For about 45 seconds. Mostly, it was hundreds of college kids who heard the word riot and ran to take pictures and see what it was about.”

A look at the video footage and a photo essay from the school’s newspaper, the Daily Mississippian, shows a racially mixed group of young people who look more like they are partying hard than rioting. The student newspaper also reported:

Chancellor Dan Jones said the use of the term “riot” was inappropriate in light of the real scale of the event.

University Police Chief Calvin Sellars declined to provide details about the disturbance beyond the statements made by university officials.

According to the local Jackson-Clarion Ledger: “Officers made two arrests for disorderly conduct: one for public intoxication and one for failure to comply with police orders.”

Tracking down how the impromptu demonstration was reclassified as a “riot”, it seems a key source may have been Margaret Ann Morgan, whose Twitter bio describes her as a University of Mississippi journalism student.

Here is a compilation of her tweets from Twitchy:

Interestingly, reports in the Atlantic Wire and The Root put little emphasis on the racial angle and discounted that it was a riot.

In essence, it looks like the early news reports quoted social media. And since the social media was rife with false allegations and dramatic fiction, it seems an entire group of disappointed students engaging in First Amendment freedoms were needlessly vilified as racist rioters.  

Ole Miss contributed to this confusion by issuing a statement confirming that “racial epithets” were “shouted” but failing to identify how many students did that, what the epithets were, or releasing the police report which supposedly contained that information.

People on social media falsely shouted “Ole Miss race riot” in a crowded country.