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Axel Cox, a white supremacist in Mississippi, was sentenced to 42 months in prison for a federal hate crime after pleading guilty to unlawfully intimidating his Black neighbors. The incident occurred last year when Cox burned a cross in the front yard of their home, violating the Fair Housing Act and prompting an investigation by the Department of Justice.

In a bold display of racism, Cox built a large cross and set it alight while hurling racial slurs at his black neighbors in order to force them out of the neighborhood, according to reports from federal prosecutors. Two pieces of wood were wedged together before dousing it with oil and setting it ablaze for all within view to see – leaving no doubt as to the motives behind this act.

“This cross burning was an abhorrent act that used a traditional symbol of hatred and violence to stoke fear and drive a Black family out of their home,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “While one might think cross-burnings and white supremacist threats and violence are things of the past, the unfortunate reality is that these incidents continue today. This sentence demonstrates the importance of holding people accountable for threatening the safety and security of Black people in their homes because of the color of their skin or where they are from.”

History of Cross Burning by White Supremacists

The Anti-Defamation League recognizes cross burning as a “symbol of terror,” having been popularized by the Ku Klux Klan in early 20th century America. Even though these incidents aren’t nearly as frequent today, a few cases have not gone unnoticed and were subsequently investigated or prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

In a pair of hate crime cases, Louis Revette and James Brown were each given lengthy prison sentences for publicly displaying their racism. Revette was convicted in 2019 after burning a cross in an overwhelmingly Black Mississippi community, while two years later, Brown received 18 months imprisonment for setting fire to another cross located in the front yard of a Virginia family who had recently taken part in a civil rights protest, according to the DOJ.

A Federal investigation was launched after a cross was burned by a white supremacist near the home of a Black family in a wealthy, mostly white coastal community of Arroyo Grande near San Luis Obispo, California.

Axel Cox White Supremacist Sentenced for Burning Cross in Black Family's Yard
This image provided by the Mississippi Department of Corrections shows Axel Cox, 24, of Gulfport, Miss. Cox, who burned a cross in his front yard to intimidate his Black neighbors in December 2020, was sentenced Thursday, March 9, 2023, to 42 years in prison. (Mississippi Department of Corrections via AP, File)

Axel Cox’s sentencing for cross burning to intimidate Black family

In addition to his sentence, Axel Cox has been sentenced to a prison term and must now face an additional three years of supervision by the authorities upon release. On top of this, he is required to reimburse $7,810 in damages caused as part of his offense.

“No one should endure such hatred and intimidation because of the color of his skin,” said U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi in a Department of Justice statement. “This defendant has been held accountable. His sentence should permeate among his kind and declare that Mississippi and the Department of Justice will not tolerate this hateful behavior.”

Ongoing White Supremacists’ Threats

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a stark warning, alerting Americans that racial and religious minorities, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and schools are all facing an increasing risk from domestic terror threats. As tensions mount in our country around ideological divides, these groups remain singled out for heightened potential danger.

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...

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