Congressman praises heckling of Gaza protesters at University of Mississippi that included racist jeer

Hecklers shout and clap on a college campus
In a photo taken from video by a student journalist, hecklers shout at a pro-Palestinian protester at the University of Mississippi on Thursday. In the video, the man on the far right makes monkey sounds and gestures at the protester, a Black woman.
(Stacey J. Spiehler via Associated Press)

Israel-Hamas war demonstrations at the University of Mississippi turned ugly this week when one counterprotester appeared to make monkey noises and gestures at a Black student in a raucous gathering that was endorsed by a far-right congressman from Georgia.

“Ole Miss taking care of business,” Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Collins wrote Friday on the social platform X with a link to a video showing racist jeers.

Collins did not respond to multiple requests for an explanation of what he meant.

The taunting brought sharp criticism on and off campus.

“Students were calling for an end to genocide. They were met with racism,” James M. Thomas, a sociology professor at the University of Mississippi, wrote Friday on X.


The Rev. Cornell William Brooks, a former president and CEO of the NAACP and professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, wrote on X that a white man mocking a Black woman as a monkey “isn’t about ‘Stand With Israel’ or ‘Free Palestine.’ This is protest as performative racism.”

Collins, a first-term congressman, posted several social media messages criticizing campus protests against Israel’s war on Gaza.

Nobody was arrested during the demonstration Thursday at the University of Mississippi, where hecklers vastly outnumbered antiwar protesters. According to a count by AP, more than 2,400 arrests have occurred on 46 campuses nationwide since April 17.

The student newspaper, the Daily Mississippian, reported that about 30 protesters gathered on the Oxford campus, calling themselves UMiss for Palestine. Videos and photos showed the protesters in a grassy area near the main library, blocked off by barriers erected by campus security. They chanted, “Free, free Palestine,” and carried Palestinian flags and signs with slogans including, “Stop the Genocide” and “U.S. bombs take Palestine lives.”

Student journalist Stacey J. Spiehler shot video that showed campus police officers and the dean of students standing between antiwar protesters and hecklers. After the Black woman protesting the war had what appeared to be a heated exchange with several white hecklers, one of the men made the monkey gestures and noises at her.

About 76% of the university’s students were white and about 11% were Black in 2022-23, the most recent data available on the school’s website.


University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce said the school is committed to people expressing their views. He said some statements made on campus Thursday were “offensive and unacceptable.” In another statement Friday, Boyce said that one “student conduct investigation” had been opened and university leaders were “working to determine whether more cases are warranted.”

“To be clear, people who say horrible things to people because of who they are will not find shelter or comfort on this campus,” he said.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves reposted a video on X that showed counterprotesters on the campus singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Warms my heart,” Reeves wrote. “I love Mississippi!”

Pettus writes for the Associated Press.