Artist group claims responsibility for body-shaped installation hanged from trees at Winthrop University
Police are investigating vandalism that was found Sunday at Winthrop University’s Tillman Hall, and a group has apparently claimed responsibility for the display.
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.
“The Winthrop University Police investigation of a display near Tillman Hall on Sunday has yielded a claim of responsibility by a group who asserts its action is a protest over the Tillman name on the main administration building,” Winthrop spokesman Jeff Perez said in an email Monday afternoon.
“The imagery used has been deeply hurtful and threatening to many on campus,” Perez wrote. “This incident will be fully investigated, and those responsible will be held accountable.”
Investigators were not able to obtain surveillance footage of the vandalism. They interviewed several students who were taking graduation regalia pictures on the front steps of Tillman Hall for more than an hour Sunday afternoon.
Those individuals told officers they didn’t see anyone in the area but didn’t know if the stockings were already there when they arrived to take 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,” 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 person who tried to vote, served as South Carolina governor and as a U.S. senator from 1890 to 1918. He was instrumental in founding Winthrop and Clemson University, both of which have buildings named after him and which have been at the center of debates surrounding the renaming of those buildings.