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U.S. Marshal Blames Mississippi Police for Ole Miss Riots

By Sandra Knispel | Published 02 Oct 2012 09:42am | comments
Riots broke out on the Ole Miss campus on the night of Sept. 30, 1962. The next day, James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy sent U.S. Marshals to ensure the enrollment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. As MPB’s Sandra Knispel reports, several of the marshals came back to campus today to talk about the events, including the deadly rioting.

A host of factors caused the violence that erupted here on Sept. 30th: a deliberately deceptive Mississippi governor, a racist press in Jackson, non-students who were allowed onto campus armed to their teeth, and an utter failure of university leadership. But to Herschel Garner, a Deputy U.S. Marshals on campus during that night – a lot of responsibility rests with Mississippi’s police force:

“Had the state police taken a forceful stand to prevent violence it would not have happened. Because they went from between ignoring it and encouraging resistance to us. And they were the uniform presence on campus that the students would respect and in my viewpoint if they had handled it like they did at Montgomery and New Orleans the riot wouldn’t have occurred.”

The U.S. Marshals were under strict orders only to use tear gas to defend themselves and to de-escalate the situation, as they were hit by bricks, Molotov cocktails and shot at.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.

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Riots broke out on the Ole Miss campus on the night of Sept. 30, 1962. The next day, James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.


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