In the security camera footage, eight members of the League of the South, a white supremacist group based in Alabama, gathered around the Emmett Till memorial, the Mississippi flag and the southern nationalist flag waving in the wind.
“We are here at the Emmett Till monument that represents the civil rights movement for blacks,” announced Michael Hill, the leader of the group. “What we want to know is, where are all of the white — ”
A security alarm sounds. Mr. Hill and the rest of the group scatter and flee the scene. It was later revealed that he and his associates, all white, were there to film a propaganda video to promote the organization’s racist views.
The memorial they surrounded marks where Emmett’s swollen and disfigured body was found washed up by the Tallahatchie Riverafter Emmett, a 14-year-old black boy, was abducted, tortured and lynched by two white men in 1955. The men were acquitted by an all-white jury. Last year, the cold case was reopened by the Justice Department.
The surveillance video, released by the Sumner Courthouse and Emmett Till Interpretive Center on Saturday and earlier reported by The Jackson Free Press, was the latest in a decadelong string of incidents involving the memorial sign.
Since it was first erected in 2008, the sign in Glendora, Miss., has been stolen and twice vandalized with bullet holes. This year, an Instagram post surfaced of three University of Mississippi students brandishing guns in front of the vandalized memorial.
A few weeks ago, a new memorial was put up for a fourth time, now bulletproof and with a surveillance system.
Emmett’s cousin Airickca Gordon-Taylor, 50, said she “felt a sense of pride” after seeing the group run away in the video. “I felt vindicated,” she said. A longstanding activist and the executive director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, Ms. Gordon-Taylor has witnessed many hate crimes in the area. This is the first time she has seen the memorial used in a propaganda video for white supremacists, but experts say these tactics are not unique.
“White supremacists or people who are ignorant in terms of American history or are just bigoted have always disrespected places that are sacred to the civil rights movement,” said Jeffery Robinson, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality.
“I don’t think it is very unique,” Mr. Robinson added, referring to the League of the South’s use of the memorial in propaganda. “I think it is an extension of what they have already done.”
The League of the South has been vocal about its plans to engage in what the group calls “street activism.” This includes posing or demonstrating near sites related to the civil rights movement, such as the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama and Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.
On the organization’s website on Sunday, Mr. Hill wrote, “as usual, we got in and out quickly and avoided any trouble from the locals, including law enforcement,” adding, “we broke no laws by simply having our pictures taken at the marker.”
According to Howard Graves, senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mr. Hill is dealing with “a dwindling pool of recruits,” and videos like the one he attempted to film at the Emmett Till memorial are part of the League of the South’s larger effort to reach new supporters.
“This is how they are trying to inflame the issue,” Mr. Graves said.
Patrick Weems, a founder of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, said he had not been contacted by the Justice Department or the F.B.I. regarding the vandalism.
“I don’t know what a hate crime is anymore,” he said.
“When we saw three university students standing in front of the marker with guns, we thought obviously this is a hate crime. They were intentionally trying to show a message to our community that Jim Crow days are not gone,” Mr. Weems said. “And yet nothing happened to those students, and so I think in some ways that empowered this next group to do what they did.”
Although the sheriff has increased surveillance of the memorial, its location — a remote area miles away from the nearest town — makes it difficult for law enforcement to monitor, Mr. Weems added.
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center raised more than $10,000 in donations after the center released the surveillance footage, Mr. Weems said on Monday. He said he planned to put some of the money toward creating a permanent memorial site for Emmett.
“There are a lot of racially motivated crimes today and they’re always reflected on Emmett,” said Ms. Gordon-Taylor, Emmett’s cousin.
And yet, she said she had not been deterred by what happened over the weekend.
“Every time you knock the sign down, we’re going to re-erect it,” she said. “Every time it disappears, we’re going to remind you that you cannot get rid of us.”
The post White Supremacists Flee From Emmett Till Memorial While Filming Video appeared first on New York Times.