On Friday, WLOX reported that a man from Gulfport, Mississippi has pleaded guilty to staging a cross-burning in order to scare his Black neighbors.
"Prosecutors say Axel Cox, 24, admitted burning the cross to intimidate his Black neighbors," said the report. "He also used threatening and racially derogatory remarks toward them. Cox said he gathered supplies from his home, put together a wooden cross in his front yard and propped it up so his neighbors could see it. He then doused the cross with motor oil and lit it on fire."
The decision to charge Cox federally was first reported in September.
“Burning a cross invokes the long and painful history, particularly in Mississippi, of intimidation and impending physical violence against Black people,” said DOJ Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute those who use racially-motivated violence to drive people away from their homes or communities.”
Cross burnings were originally popularized as a white supremacist symbol in "Birth of a Nation," the early 20th century Ku Klux Klan propaganda film that took the nation by storm and painted Klansmen as the saviors of American culture. Although cross burnings weren't actually used during the original KKK in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the tactic became a stable terrorist symbol during the "second wave" of the KKK, which went after not just Black people but Catholics, Jews, immigrants, and liberals.
To this day, the remaining KKK descendant organizations still practice cross burnings. One such event was proposed in Harrison, Arkansas as a Labor Day celebration, with Klan groups even inviting people to bring their children for a good time.