Classified as vandalism and not a hate crime.
Eighteen black nylon stockings were found hanging from trees on Winthrop University’s campus over the weekend, prompting an investigation.
Winthrop University police say they are investigating the display of “abstract black spray-painted figures hanging from branches of a nearby tree.” The display has been removed since it was reported.
The black stockings, filled with mulch and dirt, were hanging from trees in front of Tillman Hall, Winthrop police say. A nearby white sign was adjusted to say “Tillman’s Legacy.”
Winthrop police say the “disturbing acts of vandalism” were reported Sunday afternoon.
A student told officers he and others had been taking graduation pictures near the steps at Tillman Hall, and didn’t see anyone else in the area. The student said he didn’t notice if the stockings were there when they started taking the pictures.
“While we do not know the intent of this display, these images are clearly hurtful and threatening and are contrary to the values of Winthrop University,” university officials said in a statement.
Some are saying the display is “art.”
“Art challenges one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth. Arousing our emotions, expanding our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not want,” a statement from the Association of Artists for Change reads. “Tillman’s Legacy, is a work which aims to disrupt the aesthetic veil the building has, eliminating the ability to forget the eighteen men who were lynched during Benjamin Tillman’s years in office.”
The group is claiming responsibility for the display.
“One should question, why this artwork is offensive and not the building itself?” the group continued. “The building, named Tillman Hall in 1962, in response to the Civil Rights Movement, to incite fear toward prospective students of color.”
Monday, WBTV talked to a spokesperson for the artist group. She said the group consists of people of color and those in the LGBTQ community.
“If this made you uncomfortable, fearful, the name of the building and what it represents should also,” said Samantha Valdez, a spokesperson for the group.