Many Stone County High School students who attended a prayer rally Wednesday said allegations that white students placed a noose around the neck of a black student and yanked it have been misconstrued.
A racially diverse group of students and residents gathered in Blaylock Park to unite in prayer after their small community came under the national spotlight with the NAACP calling for a federal hate-crime investigation into the incident.
NAACP officials held a press conference Monday, accusing a group of white students, including a member of the football team, of putting a rope around a black player’s neck. At least one pulled on the rope, but several others were involved, an NAACP official said.
Derrick Johnson, the state NAACP director, said witnesses characterized the pulling of the rope as like the tightening of a noose and said the town of Wiggins has “always been a trouble spot” for racism.
But the students and residents who spoke to the Sun Herald on Wednesday disputed those claims, saying the incident was locker-room mischief involving a jump rope — not a rope tied into a noose — with no malicious motivation behind it.
Student Dennis Rojas said the player accused of the act is actually good friends with the black student.
Rojas and students Mikayla Shaw and Breanna Hull agreed it was a prank gone wrong.
Hull said it was never an issue at the school until it gained national media attention.
Gail Collins, a Wiggins resident of more than 30 years, said she’s never personally experienced any racism in the town.
“I live here, but I work on the Coast and spend my days there, but I haven’t really experienced any (racism) myself,” she said. “It’s all good. All you have to do is trust and believe in God.”
Justin Vicory, Sun Herald staff writer, contributed to this story.