The sign memorializing 14-year-old lynching victim Emmett Till has been thrown into the Tallahatchie River, shot at, and over the years, replaced three times. Now, in a first, the memorial will be made bulletproof.
The sign will be made with reinforced steel and will weigh about 500 pounds to prevent similar vandalism acts in the future, NBC News reported. It is expected to be installed in a ceremony on October 19.
“We’re under no naiveté that this is going to end,” Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, told NBC News. “The manufacturers said that this is a bulletproof sign. We’ll test that theory.”
The sign was first erected in 2007, to memorialize where Till, who was visiting family in Mississippi for the summer, was found dead after he was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in 1955. An all-white jury found the two men accused of killing Till not guilty. Till’s death was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.
Six months after the memorial sign was erected, however, the sign was found in the river.
It was replaced, but was later pierced with over 300 bullets. A new memorial sign was erected on June 12, 2018. However, it too was found riddled with 10 bullet holes 35 days later.
Vandalism of the sign was brought back to the public’s attention when an Instagram photo posted in March, surfaced this week, depicting three University of Mississippi students posing in front of the shot-up sign holding guns. “”It is not clear whether the fraternity students shot the sign or are simply posing before it,” the report explained.
It was uncovered by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. The students, who were a part of the Kappa Alpha have since been suspended from the fraternity.
The Emmett Till Memorial Commission issued an official statement on Thursday in response to the post, asking for donations to continue their efforts in the preservation of the memorial site.
“The efforts of the Commission have been severely hampered by vandalism,” they said. “Our signs and ones like them have been stolen, thrown in the river, replaced, shot, replaced again, shot again, defaced with acid and have had KKK spray painted on them. The vandalism has been targeted and it has been persistent.”
Larry Sparks, Ole Miss interim chancellor, also issued a statement via Twitter Friday morning, saying these types of incidents “are not things we take lightly.”
“In light of our history, our University of Mississippi community of more than 25,000 people needs to come together to make it clear that these students and their actions do not represent the values of our institution,” he said. “They do not speak for our institution, and they do not define us.”
Till would have turned 78 on Thursday.