JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi legislators were able to vote this weekend to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, a symbol that has been criticized in recent weeks amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.
People for and against the current flag gathered at the Capitol on Saturday morning when lawmakers arrived.
Karen Holt of Edwards, Mississippi, was with several people who asked lawmakers to adopt a new banner with a magnolia, which is both the state tree and the state flower, and stars to represent Mississippi as the 20th state. She said it would be “joy to be a citizen of the United States,” unlike the current flag.
“We don’t want anything flying over them, exalted, elevating itself, reaching for a deadly past,” said Holt.
Dan Hartness of Ellisville, Mississippi, walked outside the Capitol with a pole with both the American and current Mississippi flags. He said the current flag pays tribute to those who fought in the civil war.
“As a veteran, that’s important to me – that you remember these guys who fought battle whether they’re on the right or the wrong side,” said Hartness.
Mississippi has the latest state flag with the Confederate battle emblem – a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars.
Lawmakers were able to adopt a new Mississippi flag without Confederate imagery. Or they could kick the volatile issue to a statewide election, giving voters choices that may or may not include the current banner.
The battle emblem has been located in the upper left corner of the Mississippi flag since 1894. White supremacists in the legislature placed it there during a backlash on the political power African Americans gained after the civil war.
The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the flag had no official status. State laws were updated in 1906, and parts related to the flag were not transferred. Lawmakers organized a flag election in 2001, and voters maintained the rebel-themed design.
But the flag has remained divided in a state with a 38% black population. All of the state’s public universities and several cities and counties have stopped flying because of the southern symbol that many consider racist.
Influential business, religious, education, and sports groups are calling on Mississippi to drop the Confederate symbol. Flag supporters say that the banner should be left alone or put on the national ballot so voters can decide their fate.
The state’s annual legislative session is nearly over, and a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate is required to consider a bill after normal terms have passed. Leaders have worked to secure those majorities. Republican Governor Tate Reeves said on Wednesday that he will not veto a bill if lawmakers pass it.
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