Georgia congressman under fire for praising Ole Miss counter-protesters who taunted Black woman

Rep. Mike Collins, R-Ga., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on a resolution "stating that President Donald Trump did not engage in insurrection," on Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

Georgia Congressman Mike Collins is getting backlash after sharing a controversial video taken during a pro-Palestine protest at the University of Mississippi.   

The Israel-Hamas war demonstrations at the University of Mississippi turned ugly this week when one counter-protester appeared to make monkey noises and gestures at a Black student in a raucous gathering.

"Ole Miss taking care of business," Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Collins wrote on Friday on the social platform X with a link to the video showing the racist jeers.

MORE: GSU pro-Palestinian protesters demand Israel-Hamas ceasefire 

The Associated Press left voicemail messages for Collins on Friday at his offices in Georgia and Washington and emailed his spokesperson, asking for an explanation of what Collins meant, but there was no immediate response.

On Monday, Collins finally released a statement, saying that he believes in the First Amendment right to free speech but does not tolerate any form of discrimination – racism or otherwise. Collins said it's the opposite of what his faith teaches and it is not how he personally treats people. Collins also said he didn't believe that the person's behavior in the video was the "focal point" of the video, but there does seem to be some "potentially inappropriate behavior." 

The Georgia NAACP called Collins' comments "seriously unacceptable" and asked which part of the video was appropriate for a Georgia lawmaker to retweet.

The national branch of the NAACP is now calling for an Ethics Committee investigation over Collins' conduct.

Collins was first elected to Congress in 2022 and made several social media posts criticizing campus protests.

Responses to the Ole Miss protests

The taunting brought sharp criticism on and off campus.

"Students were calling for an end to genocide. They were met with racism," James M. Thomas, a sociology professor at the University of Mississippi, wrote Friday on X.

The Rev. Cornell William Brooks, a former president and CEO of the NAACP and professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, wrote on X that a white man mocking a Black woman as a monkey "isn’t about ‘Stand With Israel’ or ‘Free Palestine.’ This is protest as performative racism."

Nobody was arrested during the demonstration Thursday at the University of Mississippi, where hecklers vastly outnumbered war protesters. According to a count by AP, more than 2,400 arrests have occurred on 46 U.S. university or college campuses since April 17 during demonstrations against the war.

The student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, reported about 30 protesters on the Oxford campus billed themselves as UMiss for Palestine. Videos and photos from the event showed the protesters were in a grassy area near the main library, blocked off by barriers erected by campus security.

They chanted "Free, free Palestine," and carried Palestinian flags and signs with slogans including, "Stop the Genocide" and "U.S. bombs take Palestine lives."

Student journalist Stacey J. Spiehler shot video that showed campus police officers and the dean of students standing between anti-war protesters and hecklers. After the Black woman protesting the war had what appeared to be a heated exchange of words with several white hecklers, one of the men made monkey gestures and noises at her.

About 76% of the university’s students were white and about 11% were Black in 2022-23, the most recent data available on the school’s website.

University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce said the school is committed to people expressing their views. He said some statements made on campus Thursday were "offensive and unacceptable."

In another statement Friday, Boyce said one "student conduct investigation" had been opened, and university leaders were "working to determine whether more cases are warranted."

"To be clear, people who say horrible things to people because of who they are will not find shelter or comfort on this campus," he said.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves reposted a video on X that showed counter-protesters on the campus singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"Warms my heart," Reeves wrote. "I love Mississippi!"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.