Police are investigating vandalism found Sunday outside Winthrop University’s Tillman Hall, a site that has caused tension on the South Carolina campus because it’s named after a noted white supremacist.
The display was found around 4:45 p.m. Sunday in front of Tillman Hall, according to a Winthrop University police report.
Officers found “numerous” black stockings that had been hung from a tree by the building, according to the report. The stockings were filled with dirt and mulch, and due to them being wet from the morning rain, police believe that they were placed sometime Saturday night or early Sunday.
On the sign with the building’s name, someone taped a sign that read “Tillman’s Legacy,” police said.
Early Monday, a group called Association of Artists for Change contacted the Charlotte Observer to take responsibility. It claimed the display is “protest art” meant to inspire conversation about the history behind the building’s name. Neither police nor the University would comment on the statement.
Investigators were not able to obtain surveillance footage of the vandalism.
“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,” Winthrop President Dan Mahony said in an email to students Monday morning.
“Actions such as these are not, and will not be, acceptable on this campus,” Mahony wrote. “This incident will be fully investigated, and those responsible will be held accountable to the campus judicial system and South Carolina state law.”
This is the third time in just over a year that Tillman Hall has been vandalized.
In July 2015, someone spray-painted the words “violent racist” on Benjamin Tillman’s portrait in the building’s lobby, causing about $3,000 damage to the portrait.
Just one month later, on the school’s Convocation day, someone again vandalized the building. Officials never disclosed details about the vandalism, which happened on the outside of the building.
Tillman, a noted white supremacist who advocated lynching any black who tried to vote, served as South Carolina governor and as a U.S. senator from 1890 to 1918. Recently, concerns have been raised at Winthrop and Clemson University – which also has a building named for the former politician – with some people asking school leaders to rename campus buildings honoring Tillman.