JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Family members of Emmett Till are demanding charges and an apology after a photo of gun-toting Ole Miss students posing beside a bullet-ridden marker commemorating the murdered 14-year-old was spread around the internet.
“I found out about the sign on his birthday,” says Priscilla Sterling, cousin of Emmett Till. “That was so ironic that they would show three, young, white guys standing in front of the landmark with bullet holes riddled throughout the sign.”
The photo shows three white Ole Miss fraternity students posing with guns in front of a sign that has been sprayed with bullets that marks the spot where Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in 1955.
“They felt like they could do this because they would not be held accountable," Sterling said. "We continually have to re-live this hurt.”
“This has nothing to do with fraternities,” added Anna Laura Williams, another of Emmett Till’s cousins. “This is the way they been brought up and this is something they want to do. We’re getting rid of the flag so they wanna get rid of Emmett Till’s sign.”
Till was just 14-years-old when he was tortured and murdered after being accused of whistling at white woman. It’s a case that galvanized the civil rights movement.
Sterling and Williams are now demanding justice, an apology and charges be brought against whoever was responsible for damaging the memorial.
“I’m praying the Department of Justice comes in, does a thorough investigation, and does not listen to outside sources or the people within Mississippi who are not holding them accountable. Because this happened back in March we’ve heard, so why did they decide to show it on his birthday?” asks Sterling.
The Justice Department is reportedly investigating.
As far as the students on the picture, they have been suspended by their fraternity. Also, a new bullet proof sign made of steel will replace the bullet riddled one.
“It’s not a play thing when it comes to us,” said Williams. “It’s serious. We loved our relative.”
Family members point out this is not the first time the historical marker has been vandalized. They say vandals have tried to destroy different signs multiple times over the years, but they will do all they can to keep Till’s memory alive.
“We’re gonna keep Emmett’s name alive,” Sterling said. “I named my child after Emmett simply because we are not gonna let him die. Emmett was a martyr, is a saint all because people chose to take a young man, based on a lie, away from his family. All the children of the world, both black and white, should know what happened to [Emmett Till].”