JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi police are investigating two nooses and six signs that were found on the grounds of the state Capitol on Monday, a day before a U.S. Senate runoff that has focused attention on the state’s history of racist violence.
It was not immediately known who put the nooses up or why. Mississippi is preparing for a U.S. Senate runoff Tuesday between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy in a contest that has increasingly taken on racial overtones.
Chuck McIntosh, a spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees the Capitol, said the nooses and signs were found shortly before 8 a.m. Monday on the south side of the Capitol in downtown Jackson.
He said the matter is under investigation by the Mississippi Capitol Police, and he did not immediately know what was on the signs. WLBT-TV showed photos of the nooses hanging over tree limbs, and described the rest as “hate signs.”
Hyde-Smith, who is white, has drawn fire for a photo showing her wearing a replica hat of a Confederate soldier, and a video showing her praising a supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” She said the hanging remark was an “exaggerated expression of regard” for the supporter, but the remarks drew sharp criticism in a state with a 38 percent black population.
Espy is seeking to become the first African-American U.S. senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction. Neither Espy nor a Hyde-Smith campaign spokeswoman would comment on the nooses. Mississippi has a history of racially motivated lynchings. The NAACP website says that between 1882 and 1968, there were 4,743 lynchings in the United States, and nearly 73 percent of the victims were black. It says Mississippi had 581 during that time, the highest number of any state.
Civil rights activists were also beaten and killed in Mississippi as they pushed for African-Americans’ voting rights, particularly from the end of World War II until the 1960s.