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Ole Miss Students Posing With Guns At Emmett Till Memorial…On His Birthday

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A photograph of three University of Mississippi students with guns posing in front of the bullet-ridden memorial for slain civil rights icon Emmett Till was released, causing controversy.

What We Know:

  • The memorial was there to honor 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was tortured and murdered in August 1955 for “flirting” with a white woman. He was beaten and left so disfigured that he was hardly recognizazble. The all-white, all-male jury in Mississippi acquitted his murderers, two white men, accused of the slaying. His murder showcases the true brutality of the “Jim Crow” era.
  • The new, 500-pound reinforced steel memorial is expected to be installed in a ceremony on Oct. 19, NBC News reported. The sign will be bulletproof as a result of this terrible crime. It will be placed at the spot where Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River and will be open to the public — but protected by a gate and security cameras, according to the Emmett Till Memorial Commission.

  • “Unlike the first three signs, this sign calls attention to the vandalism itself,” the commission said in a news release. “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 students have since been suspended from their fraternity house and face possible investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
  • This is not the first time that the sign has been damaged. “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 commission said. “The vandalism has been targeted, and it has been persistent.”
  • Vandals first threw the sign in the river. The second sign was blasted with 317 bullets or shotgun pellets before removed by commission officials. The third sign, featured in the Instagram photo, was damaged by 10 bullet holes before officials took it down last week. The comission is planning on having the site designated as a national park (vandalism at national parks is prohibited by federal law).

Emmett Till deserves to forever be respected.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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Crime

New Orleans 911 Operator Wanted After Allegedly Disconnecting Calls on Purpose

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A New Orleans 911 operator deliberately disconnected emergency calls without obtaining necessary information or relaying the callers’ emergencies to other dispatchers, and she is now facing arrest, according to authorities.

What We Know:

  • Precious Stephens, 25, is wanted on a count of malfeasance in office, and she remained at large Thursday, police said. She has been fired from her job as a 911 operator, officials said.

“(The district) has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”

  • Stephens worked for the Orleans Parish Communication District, which dispatches first responders to 911 calls. On Aug. 24, the district reported to police that Stephens had deliberately disconnected 911 calls without obtaining vital information or informing other dispatchers about the callers who were in need of help.  The district conducted an investigation into the quality of a random set of calls when they detected the problems with Stephens during her shifts Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, officials said.  A statement from the district highlighted how its own internal protocols identified the issues with Stephens, who was immediately turned over to police and dismissed from her post.

Police asked anyone who knows where Stephens is to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.

Louisiana law defines malfeasance in office as unlawfully performing a job in public service. It can carry up to five years in prison.

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Crime

R&B Star R. Kelly Jurors Summoned for Sex Trafficking Trial

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The first phase of R. Kelly‘s trial began on Aug. 9 with a jury selection after several delays.

What We Know:

  • U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about Kelly as he faces charges for abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. Donnelly also reminded jurors that Kelly was presumed innocent, so they should not feel influenced by any bad publicity the singer experienced because of the accusations.
  • Due to pandemic restrictions, the event took place online. Because of this, Kelly and the jurors faced difficulty popping up on the screen and the audio cut off at times.
  • During the trial, jurors will expect to hear testimonies from several of Kelly’s accusers. In addition, a judge ruled that officials may only use the women’s first names. Currently, Kelly faces sex trafficking charges. Scrutiny around Kelly’s sexual behavior has followed him for decades. These include charges for child pornography. Alongside the sex-trafficking case in New York, Kelly also faces sex-related charges against him in Illinois and Minnesota.
  • In addition, prosecutors might provide evidence that Kelly schemed with others to buy a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah. In 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15, Kelly married and began a sexual relationship with her; it is also speculated he impregnated her. Prosecutors believe he married her so that she could not testify against him.
  • In regards to his sex-trafficking trial, Kelly denies any wrongdoing; he has pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for sex. Concerning the criminal enterprise, federal prosecutors reported the group found victims at concerts and other venues. After recruiting the women and children, they would make travel arrangements so they could meet with Kelly. Kelly’s lawyers claimed the victims were “groupies” who showed up at his concerts and “were dying to be with” Kelly.

The case is scheduled to officially begin on Aug. 18 with opening statements.

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