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Ole Miss NAACP won’t share evidence two students made ‘racist remarks’ at rally

Names three students it wants expelled, blocks reporter after asking questions

The University of Mississippi NAACP chapter wants three students expelled from the university for “racist remarks,” but has yet to produce evidence backing its claims for two of them.

Furthermore, the Ole Miss NAACP blocked a reporter from a different outlet after he challenged their narrative.

The College Fix also did not obtain comments or proof from the chapter after multiple requests for comment via Instagram in the past several weeks.

The black student group said James Staples, Connor Moore, and Rouse Boyce were “involved in the use of racial slurs, intimidation, and vulgar behavior,” during a May 2024 rally that went viral online. The rally included pro-Palestinian activists facing off against what appeared to be fraternity members and others who were showing support for America.

A graphic posted on Instagram said the university should expel the students for being “perpetrators of racist remarks.”

Staples is seen on video making monkey noises towards a black woman who is walking towards the crowd, many wearing American flag clothing. “A witness told OutKick he believed the noises were directed at her because she is overweight,” the news outlet reported.

“Either way, there’s certainly a conversation to be had about Staples’ conduct. It certainly appeared to be idiotic, and he was thrown out of his fraternity immediately for his actions,” the outlet reported.

“But that definitely doesn’t mean everyone there should be roped in,” OutKick commented.

Reporter Dave Hookstead said the Ole Miss NAACP chapter did not provide evidence when asked. He said his account has subsequently been blocked. (Hookstead, a former reporter for The Fix, declined to comment for this article).

Hookstead said that the Ole Miss NAACP chapter turned off its Instagram comments on the post.

“Specifically, the post smearing Boyce and Moore and racists no longer allows comments, despite definitely allowing them when the mob was piling on and the post was going viral,” he wrote in a second article in May.

He said that this happened sometime after his first story was published which mentioned that the organization would not provide proof of the situation.

The Ole Miss group also did not answer questions from The Fix about why Hookstead was blocked.

The Fix could not reach either Boyce or Moore for comment. The Fix reached out three times via Instagram to Moore for comment. The president of Kappa Alpha Order, their fraternity, also did not respond to three emailed requests for contact information.

Legal scholar weighs in on possible defamation action

A George Washington University law professor said via email it would be difficult for the students to pursue legal action against Ole Miss NAACP. At the same time, he said the university must be careful to protect free speech.

Professor John Banzhaf told The Fix, “it can be argued that the statements were made to protect Black students who might be harmed directly or indirectly by objectionable statements such as these, and similar statements by these individuals in the future.”

He also said “the statements at issue are more generalized opinion about well-known events rather than allegations of a factual nature.”

“A statement in the nature of opinion, rather than of objective fact, is not defamatory unless it rather clearly implies to a reasonable reader some derogatory objective underlying fact,” he said.

The word “racist,” he said, “is not a clearly defined term.”

“Here the plaintiff students made remarks which were public, and which could looked up and evaluated by anyone who wished to form their own opinion regarding them,” Banzhaf said. “Others opined that, in their own view, these public and clearly identified statements were racist and derogatory.”

The Fix also asked how universities should respond to calls to punish someone for speech and conduct.

“Universities should strongly resist calls to punish students solely for their speech and conduct – including that which many might describe as ‘hate speech,’ contrary to values, highly objectionable, etc,” the law professor said.

“University should (and in many cases are required to) provide Due Process,” Banzhaf said.

He also said university officials should be careful to apply rules “evenhandedly without regard to the underlying cause or purpose allegedly being promoted.”

MORE: A civil rights reminder for Harvard on choosing a new college president

IMAGES: Ole Miss NAACP/Instagram; Stacey Spiehler/The Daily Mississippian

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About the Author
College Fix contributor MJ Cadman is a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she is studying theology.