North and South Carolina have had a lot of racially motivated attacks, especially during the civil rights era and even in recent times.
The people at the time lived in a racially divided society and most of the residents have tried to forget their racially divided past.
Imagine the fear in the eyes of a 16-year-old tenth grader seeing a cross burning on his front lawn. The perpetrators, Louie Bernard Revette and his accomplice, Graham Williamson, built and burnt a wooden cross on the boy’s lawn Ku Klux Klan style.
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Their intention was to cause fear and panic in a predominantly African-American neighbourhood in Seminary, Jackson Mississippi, USA Today reports.
The incident, which occurred in October 2017, has attracted an 11-year jail sentence for Louie who pleaded guilty in court. He admitted that he and Graham wanted to threaten and frighten the black families, purely because of the race or colour.
He was convicted on one count of using fire in the commission of a federal felony, interference with housing rights and a federal civil rights violation in the incident.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement: “the defendant terrorized members of a community simply because of their race and where they lived. The Department of Justice will not tolerate these acts of hate, and we will continue to prosecute hate crimes like these to the fullest extent of the law,” Newsweek reports.
With the U.S. first amendment rights, some people have gone unpunished for some hate crimes because their argument was that they had the right to express themselves, especially when their intent was not to intimidate such as the Virginia v. Black case.
In the case, the cross-burning incident was not criminalized because the culprits claimed the act was not intended to intimidate.
U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, who presided over the case, said the crime was not completely based on race, although he did not give details on what else drove Louie to burn the cross.
Irrespective of the motive, Starrett said: “cross burning is a big deal” and as a child in McComb “in the cross burning capital of the South, he was completely aware of the fear and intimidation elicited by cross burnings and church fires. It is not an act of courage to come in the night and try to intimidate somebody,” Hattiesburg American reports.
Louie rendered an apology in court in a bid to express remorse for the incident. “I want everyone to know I’m not proud of what happened,” he said. “I hate what I did. I can’t even believe I did that. I never done anything like that before in my life.”
His co-conspirator, Graham, who has also pleaded guilty for the same charges in August, is scheduled for sentencing in November, Federal News Network reports.
The family of the tenth-grader did not appear in court for the sentencing but his grandmother, Rose Marie Shears, expressed her concerns through Julia Gegenheimer, a government attorney. She said: “I thought that ‘those days’ were over, this act has brought it all back.,” Hattiesburg American reported.
Shears went on further to ask for heavier sentencing for the culprits, stating that she feared they would return to terrorize her family. She believed that a 20 to 40 year-sentence was more appropriate for the crime.