A Mississippi man has been charged with a federal hate crime and arson violations after he burned a cross in his front yard to “threaten, interfere and intimidate” a Black family, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Axel C. Cox, 23, is charged with one count of criminal interference with the right to fair housing and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony in connection with the alleged incident.
According to the indictment, Cox allegedly chose to burn the cross because of the family’s race. He also reportedly used racially derogatory remarks toward his Black neighbors during the incident, which occurred in December of 2020.
Federal prosecutors said that Cox violated the housing rights of his neighbors. He is accused of violating a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. According to the law, it is unlawful for anyone to interfere with another person’s housing rights based on race.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, cross burning, also known as cross lighting, has been considered a hate symbol associated with the Ku Klux Klan since the early 1900s.
“This is another stark reminder of how bigotry, racism, and hate-fueled violence are alive and well in our country. Mississippi is no exception,” Vangela M. Wade, President of the Mississippi Center for Justice, told The Associated Press.
“The fight to dismantle Mississippi’s deeply entrenched culture of injustice and a better tomorrow continues. We are thankful for the courage of the members of the federal grand jury to indict this hate crime,” she said.
If convicted, Cox faces up to 10 years in prison for violating the housing rights of his neighbors and a mandatory minimum of 10 years in jail for using fire to commit a federal felony. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000 “with respect to each charge,” according to a release by the Justice Department.
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