For burning a cross in his front yard to intimidate his Black neighbors, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. Axel Cox, 24, was sentenced on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime and violating the Fair Housing Act in December, reports NPR. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 (of which the Fair Housing Act is a part) — prohibits discrimination against a person's housing rights based on the individual's race, religion, national origin, sex, or family status. The Justice Department said Cox, 24, burned a cross in his front yard on Dec. 3, 2020, and used "threatening and racially derogatory remarks" toward his Black neighbors. He built the cross from supplies in his home, propping it up in his front yard so his Black neighbors could see it. Cox said he "intended to scare them into moving out of the neighborhood."
Cox was ordered to pay $7,810 in restitution for his actions. Cross burning, also referred to as cross lighting, is considered a hate symbol often associated with the Ku Klux Klan since the early 1900s, according to the Anti-Defamation League. David Cunningham, author of Klansville, U.S.A., has said that the Klan's act of burning crosses was a symbol of "intimidation and terror." "The crosses they burned there were often 60 or 70 feet high, so these are enormous crosses they were burning. In itself [they] were just a symbol of how ambitious the Klan's organization was," Cunningham said. Vangela Wade of the Mississippi Center for Justice says cross burnings bring back the blatant racism that is often associated with the Jim Crow South. "This is another stark reminder of how bigotry, racism, and hate-fueled violence are alive and well in our country. Mississippi is no exception," Wade said.