Nooses and signs with messages about lynching were discovered on the grounds of the Mississippi State Capitol on Monday, just one day before a hotly-contested Senate runoff in which the Republican incumbent made racist remarks about attending a “public hanging.”
The nooses and signs were discovered by state capitol police, WLBT first reported. One of the five signs reportedly read, “We’re hanging the nooses to remind people that times haven’t changed.” Another stated, “We want leadrs [sic] who give honest apologies and can be humble enough to admit when they’re wrong!!!!!”
Capitol police are investigating the incident but have not yet arrested anyone as of Monday afternoon.
— WLBT 3 On Your Side (@WLBT) November 26, 2018
“The perpetrators of this act will be identified and and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said in a statement. “I have contacted the Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance.”
The nooses were discovered just one day before a Senate election runoff between incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Mike Espy (D). Hyde-Smith holds a five point advantage in the polls, according to FiveThirtyEight, but has come under fire for racist remarks. During a campaign stop on November 2, she posed with a supporter and said, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” According to the Equal Justice Initiative, there were 654 lynchings in Mississippi from 1877 to 1950.
The Jackson Free Press reported that Hyde-Smith attended Lawrence County Academy, a “segregation academy” designed to help white parents avoid sending their children to de-segregated public schools. In one photo, Hyde-Smith was seen posing with the school’s Confederate soldier mascot. Several decades later, she sent her daughter to Brookhaven Academy, another segregation academy.
Hyde-Smith entangled herself in controversy yet again on November 16, when she joked on the campaign trail about making it harder for progressives to vote. “There’s a lot of liberal folks in those [college campuses] who maybe we don’t want to vote,” she said to a crowd in Starkville, Mississippi. “Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.” Hyde-Smith’s campaign said the comments were made in jest.
More than two weeks after the initial lynching comments, and after losing the support of several corporate donors, Hyde-Smith finally apologized for them last Tuesday, saying there was “no ill will, no intent whatsoever” in her remarks. She then quickly went on to say that the comment was twisted and turned into “a political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent.”
Bryant, meanwhile, defended Hyde-Smith’s remarks by saying that the real issue was how abortion was creating a Black genocide. “We have been sensitive to race relations in this state,” Bryant said. “Today, I talked about the genocide of over 20 million African American children. See, in my heart, I am confused about where the outrage is at about 20 million African American children that have been aborted.”
President Donald Trump traveled to Mississippi for two rallies with Hyde-Smith on Monday. The president said he’d spoken to Hyde-Smith about the lynching comment and said she felt “very badly.”