Civil rights activists in Charleston called Friday for the resignation of The Citadel’s president after online photos surfaced showing cadets with pillowcases over their heads similar to Ku Klux Klan robes
School officials say seven students shown in the photos have been suspended, along with an upperclassman who was photographed but not dressed up.
College spokeswoman Kim Keelor said the eight suspended students have gone home and are not permitted back on campus. She said there’s been no decision whether they might be allowed to return.
Photos appeared on social media this week showing seven freshmen cadets, called knobs because of their short haircuts, wearing white T-shirts and white pants with the pillowcases on their heads.
John Rosa, president of the South Carolina military college, called the images “offensive and disturbing” In a statement Thursday. He said initial reports indicated the cadets were singing carols as part of a “Ghosts of Christmas Past skit.”
Meanwhile, civil rights activists called for Rosa to step down.
“We believe that accountability starts at the top,” said James Johnson of the National Action Network during a Friday news conference across the street from the gates of the military college. “What those students and the leadership have done is open up a wound that is hard to close.”
“Enough is enough,” he said, saying the group wants Rosa to step down and wants the state to stop funding the military college. As he spoke, cadets in uniform walked through the gates across the street.
Amid the furor, Democratic presidential campaigns called for the removal of the Confederate flag in the college’s chapel.
Hillary Clinton sent a tweet Friday saying: “Symbols of hate create more hate. It’s time for the Confederate flag to come down at The Citadel.”
The South Carolina state campaign directors for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley also called for removal of the flag.
The school’s Board of Visitors has agreed to remove the Confederate Naval Jack from Summerall Chapel but that move requires approval from the South Carolina General Assembly under the state’s Heritage Act.
Two South Carolina lawmakers have called for the expulsion of the cadets who were suspended.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard said in a written statement that such an act, just across town from the Emanuel AME church where nine people were shot and killed last summer, adds “insult to injury.” Dylann Roof, a white man who posed with a Confederate flag for online photos has been charged with killing the nine black parishioners.
State Sen. Marlon Kimpson is also calling for the expulsion of the cadets.