WASHINGTON - A US student was charged Friday for putting a noose around the neck of a statue of his university's first black student, the Justice Department said.
Graeme Phillip Harris, of the University of Mississippi, was indicted on two counts for conspiring to violate civil rights and threatening force to intimidate African Americans "because of their race or colour," a Justice statement said.
In February 2014 Harris and other students allegedly tied a rope and flag depicting the Confederate emblem around the neck of the statue of Civil Rights-era student James Meredith.
The Confederate flag is seen by many as a symbol of racist oppression in the slavery-era South, which Mississippi was a part of.
According to the indictment, Harris acted in the middle of the night "with the intent to threaten and intimidate African-American students and employees at the university."
US media reported that three students involved in the incident were members of a fraternity, which subsequently expelled the young men and suspended the chapter.
Attorney General Eric Holder said that the "shameful and ignorant act is an insult to all Americans and a violation of our most strongly-held values.
"The Department of Justice is sending a clear message that flagrant infringements of our historic civil rights will not go unnoticed or unpunished," he said.
The indictment follows the recent expulsion of students from The University of Oklahoma who led a racist chant by members of their college fraternity, in an episode that was caught on video and went viral online.