A new memorial honoring teenage lynching victim Emmett Till will reportedly become bulletproof and protected by security, following national outrage over a photo of white college students posing with guns beside the shot up historical marker.
The Emmett Till Memorial Commission released a statement on Thursday that the new sign will be bulletproof and will be placed at the same spot where 14-year-old’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in northwest Mississippi in 1955.
“Unlike the first three signs, this sign calls attention to the vandalism itself,” the nonprofit group said. “We believe it is important to keep a sign at this historic site, but we don’t want to hide the legacy of racism by constantly replacing broken signs.”
The commission told NBC News that the new sign will be 500 pounds and steel-reinforced with security cameras and gates protecting it. The redesign comes after the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting recently revealed a photo of three white University of Mississippi students posing with guns beside a bullet-pocked sign honoring the Civil Rights icon.
According to the Center, the image was shared on one of the men’s social media accounts earlier this year. It remains unclear whether the men in the photo actually shot at the sign prior to taking the photo, but they’ve been suspended from their fraternity and may face a federal investigation, HuffPost reports.
Till has posthumously been at the forefront of the civil rights movement following his horrific murder in August 1955. The then 14-year-old boy was given permission by his mother to leave their hometown of Chicago to visit relatives in Mississippi. A white woman accused the black teen of whistling at her, which prompted her husband and his half-brother to kidnap Till from his bed and beat and mutilate him before shooting him in the head and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. An all-white jury later acquitted the men, and the woman reportedly revealed decades later that she had lied about her encounter with Till.
The Emmett Till Memorial Commission has put up several signs near the site of Till’s death, but the one along the Tallahatchie River has been subject to the most vandalism, HuffPost reports.
“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 group wrote this week. “The vandalism has been targeted and it has been persistent.”
The commission is in the process of getting the Till memorials accredited as a national park which would make it a federal crime to vandalize the historical marker.
“This has been our highest hope since our organization was founded,” the commission wrote of the effort to secure the national park designation. “In 1955 the federal government refused to get involved in the Till case. We believe it is now the responsibility of Congress and the President to ensure this story is told for generations to come.”
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