JACKSON, Miss. (CN) – The Mississippi lawmaker who said “Nazi-ish” Louisiana officials should be lynched for taking down Confederate monuments in New Orleans has been sued by a black attorney, who asked the judge to order state Rep. Karl Oliver to read the biography “The Blood of Emmett Till” and write a book report on it.
Plaintiff Carlos Moore is a Hattiesburg attorney who sued Mississippi a year ago, trying to get the Confederate Stars and Bars removed from the Mississippi state flag.
In his Tuesday lawsuit in Federal Court, Moore said Oliver’s lynching statement, posted on the lawmaker’s Facebook page, was “intended to communicate a death threat to anyone in Mississippi who might take action to lawfully secure the removal of Confederate monuments or insignia in Mississippi.”
On Sunday, as the last of four monuments to the Confederacy was being removed from public land in New Orleans, Oliver called it “heinous and horrific.” The second sentence of his three-sentence post said: “If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, ‘leadership’ of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books and destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED!”
Moore’s 6-page lawsuit continues: “More specifically, it was intended as a threat to have Mr. Moore lynched for his diligent and persistent efforts, through the United States courts since early 2016, to remove Mississippi’s prominent and flagrant glorification of the goals of the Confederacy, including slavery and white supremacy, in its state flag.”
Moore asks the court to enjoin the defendants from making any more threats against him or trying to carry them out. He also asks the court to order the state attorney general to investigate whether the defendants have committed crimes, including threats of violence and intimidation of a witness in a court proceeding. And he wants them ordered to read two books on lynching, “At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America,” by Phillip Dray, and “The Blood of Emmett Till,” by Timothy Tyson.
Emmett Till was a black teenager in the town of Money, Mississippi, which is in Oliver’s legislative district. Till was kidnapped and lynched in 1955, on the false accusation that he had whistled at a white woman in a grocery store. The woman did not recant the false accusation for more than 50 years, in this year’s best-selling biography, “The Blood of Emmett Till.”
In his lawsuit about the Mississippi flag, Moore calls it “state-sanctioned hate speech.” U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed the complaint in September last year for lack of standing, saying Moore did not show that the flag caused an identifiable legal injury.
Moore appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court which affirmed Reeve’s ruling. In his Tuesday lawsuit, Moore said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Defendants have been keenly aware of Mr. Moore’s lawsuit and have celebrated its lack of success thus far,” his new complaint states. “They are, on information and belief, aware that he will be asking the Supreme Court to hear his case. There is no other prominent and active effort to remove Confederate imagery or monuments in Mississippi and defendants’ reference to lynching and preventing ‘this from happening in our State’ was an intentional and specific death threat directed at Mr. Moore, intended to intimidate him from seeking Supreme Court review, or take any legal steps to challenge the flying of the Mississippi state flag. It was further intended to chill and deter Mr. Moore and others from exercising their free speech rights and their right to petition the government for redress of grievances, specifically to seek redress for the state of Mississippi’s continued labeling of African Americans as second-class citizens.”
Mississippi is the last state in the nation to have a flag that prominently features the Confederate battle emblem – a red field topped by a blue X dotted with 13 white stars. Voters overwhelmingly chose in a 2001 referendum to keep it, 64 percent to 36 percent.
Nonetheless, Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gillich in April this year ordered all state flags to be pulled from municipal buildings in his city, so as not to discourage tourism.
“We don’t think we should give them any reason to reconsider their decision to visit our community,” a spokesman for the mayor said told the Clarion Ledger newspaper.
In June 2015, after Dylann Roof killed nine people and wounded three in an historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, officials in several Southern cities called for removal of Confederate flags and other symbols from government properties.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for removal of Confederate memorials in New Orleans in the same spirit – the memorials about which Oliver posted on Facebook.
The Mississippi flag has been removed from public universities across the state and several other cities and counties, including the capital, Jackson.
Republican Governor Phil Bryant has said many times that the flag design should be changed only by voters, not by lawmakers or courts.
“The District Court was correct that Moore fails to identify that part of the Constitution that guarantees a legal right to be free of anxiety,” Assistant Attorneys General Douglas Miracle and Harold Pizzetta wrote for Bryant in arguments to the Fifth Circuit.
In dismissing Moore’s lawsuit, Reeves, who is also African American, cited the state’s 1861 secession declaration that said: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world.”
Reeves continued in his own words: “To put it plainly, Mississippi was so devoted to the subjugation of African-Americans that to sought to form a new nation predicated upon white supremacy.” Nonetheless, Reeves dismissed it.
Moore also sued Mississippi state Reps. John Read and Doug McLeod, both Republicans, and Mississippi Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Tony Dunn, for allegedly “electronically and explicitly expressing their support for the above-quoted threat through Facebook and other means.” All three “liked” Oliver’s Facebook post.
Moore claims that all four defendants “intended that their statements would be widely disseminated through social media and the press.”
Moore is represented Charles Lawrence of Hattiesburg and Michael Scott with Reed Smith in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Threats of violence and violence have been increasing in U.S. political campaigns since the 2016 president campaign and election. On Wednesday, the Republican candidate in a special election for the U.S. House in Montana was charged with assaulting a reporter on the final day of his campaign. Greg Gianforte is running for Montana’s single seat in the U.S. House, to replace Ryan Zinke, whom President Donald Trump appointed secretary of the interior.
Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin told reporters late Wednesday there was enough evidence to charge Gianforte with misdemeanor assault. Three of the state’s major newspapers, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian, and The Helena Independent Record promptly withdrew their endorsements of Gianforte.
The fracas may not tip the race to Democratic candidate Rob Quist, however, as The New York Times reported late Wednesday night that more than half the expected ballots had been cast already in early voting.
The apparent assault on Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, was witnessed by other reporters, including a Fox News crew, which posted a story with an audio recording of the attack.