The day after the city of New Orleans removed the last of its Confederate monuments from public display, a Republican lawmaker who represents the community where Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi wrote that leaders who work to have such monuments taken down “should be lynched.”
Alongside a photo of the statue of Robert E. Lee — the last of the four monuments to be removed from public display in New Orleans — Republican Rep. Karl Oliver of Money, Mississippi, wrote on Facebook: “The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, ‘leadership’ of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”
The post, published Saturday, was still live on Oliver’s page as of Monday morning.
Mississippi Today reports that two of Oliver’s fellow Republican state representatives liked his post. A statement released on behalf of the entire House of Representatives didn’t condemn it.
“Like all members of the House, Representative Oliver reserves the right to voice his opinion on any matter he chooses,” the statement says, according to Mississippi Today. “However, that opinion does not necessarily reflect that of his fellow legislators.”
But Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes (D-Gulfport), head of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, denounced Oliver’s post, telling Mississippi Today that “[t]he shameful, but seemingly extremely comfortable, choice of words used by my colleague Rep. Karl Oliver, were offensive to me as the act of lynching was commonly used and most targeted toward African American men, women and children in the south and especially in our state.”
“I commend Louisiana’s leaders for taking the brave stance to remove the offensive monuments from public areas in their city,” she added. “It is time for Mississippi to make similar strides as many in our state find the state flag offensive and non-representing of all Mississippi residents.”
New Orleans is about 60 percent black. On Friday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered what the New Orleans Times-Picayune describes as a “passionate defense” of the monuments’ removal.
“I knew taking down these monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing, and this is what that looks like,” he said.
More from the Times-Picayune:
Landrieu emphasized that there is a “difference between the memory of history and the reverence of it.” Advocates of keeping the monuments in place — who Landrieu called “self-appointed defenders of history” — are “eerily silent about what amounts to historical malfeasance.” New Orleans was one of the largest ports active in the slave trade, where thousands of souls “were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor, of misery, of rape and torture,” he said.
While Oliver frames his opposition to removing Confederate monuments in terms of preserving history, Breitbart — the right-wing publication formerly run by Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon — wrote that their removal signaled a “victory for political correctness.”
UPDATE (5/23, 8:30 a.m.): Oliver has apologized for his since-deleted Facebook post. In a statement, he claims that when he called for the lynching of political leaders who work to remove Confederate monuments, he simply meant to express his “passion for preserving all historical monuments.”
“I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians,” Oliver’s statement says, according to the Associated Press. “In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word ‘lynched’ was wrong. I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term. I deeply regret that I chose this word, and I do not condone the actions I referenced, nor do I believe them in my heart. I freely admit my choice of words was horribly wrong, and I humbly ask your forgiveness.”