'Spiritual Genocide' Spray-Painted on Mississippi Confederate Monument Amid George Floyd Protests

The phrase "spiritual genocide" was spray-painted onto a Confederate monument at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi Saturday, according to local news outlets. Photos from the scene show the message written in several places across the marble figure, accompanied by red hand prints.

The Oxford Eagle, a local newspaper based near the university, acquired a statement from the school's administrators on Saturday night, which confirmed one person had been arrested for suspected connection to the spray-painting.

"University Police Department officers took a suspect into custody today (Saturday, May 30) related to a vandalism incident of a monument on the Circle," the institution said in its statement to The Oxford Eagle. "UPD is continuing to investigate. Because the investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment any further at this time."

Another report by Jackson-based news outlet WLBT later identified the suspect as former student Zachary Borenstein, according to university officials. He has been "arrested and charged with injuring, destroying or defacing certain cemetery property, public buildings, schools or churches, or property thereof, a felony." Borenstein is reportedly scheduled to be arraigned in court on Monday.

The monument was spray-painted amid a rally held in Oxford Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis on Monday after a city police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.

WLBT noted that Ole Miss students and Mississippi state agencies have been advocating for the Confederate monument's removal since last year, though their requests were stalled by trustees at the state's Institutions of Higher Learning in January.

Newsweek had earlier reached out to the University of Mississippi's Police and Public Safety Department as well as the school's administration for additional information, but did not receive replies by time of publication.

Demonstrations against police brutality have broken out across the United States since Floyd's death last week, some of which became violent. Reporters covering protests in several cities--including Minneapolis and Los Angeles--detailed interactions between law enforcement and crowds, saying police used tear gas and rubber bullets as means to disperse groups. According to the Associated Press, close to 1,400 people have been arrested for their involvement in various demonstrations over the last six days.

As local and state government authorities continue to uphold social distance mandates in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, curfews were implemented on Saturday night in efforts to discourage protesters from gathering. After protests in Los Angeles led to fires, looting and other forms of property damage earlier in the day, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for L.A. County and deployed members of the national guard to intervene.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti informed residents of the national guard's arrival on Twitter Saturday, after imposing a city-wide curfew that extended from 8 p.m. on Saturday until 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. He said their involvement would "support our local response to maintain peace and safety on the streets of our city."

Updated 4:46 PM ET, with the university's confirmation of the suspect, and that the rally was held in the town of Oxford.

Updated 10:19 PM ET, with a tweaked headline to say "Confederate Monument"

University of Mississippi
OXFORD, MS - APRIL 12: The Lyceum, oldest building on the campus of the University of Mississippi on April 12, 2008 in Oxford, Mississippi. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images/Getty