Crowds protest Miss. flag in Jackson

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Supporters of the Flag for All Mississippians Act—Initiative 55— participated in a march and rally on Sunday at the state capitol in Jackson for protesting the Mississippi state flag.

The march began at 3 p.m. at the intersection of John R. Lynch Street and Rose Street, and it ended on the Mississippi State Capitol steps, where the rally began later that afternoon.

Initiative 55 is a state ballot initiative to amend the Constitution of the State of Mississippi and remove the Confederate battle emblem from the Mississippi state flag.

“Today, we are still fighting the battle for civil rights for all Mississippi citizens,” said Myrlie Evers-Williams, a civil rights activist, journalist and the widow of murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers. “We currently stand under a divided symbol.”

South Carolina state Representative Jenny Horne, who gave the impassioned speech that eventually led to the removal of the Confederate flag from her state’s capitol, also joined the rally in support of Mississippi’s Initiative 55.

Rapper, record producer, actor and Mississippi native David “Mr. Mississippi” Banner was also in attendance at the rally, and gave a speech about the importance of the removal of the Confederate army’s battle flag.

“Medgar Evers died over 50 years ago, and we are still talking about (the) same things,” Banner said. “The people who are rallying here today had their ancestors’ lives taken away from them, so when that is turned around and put in their faces, (that’s) blatantly spitting in the face of anybody of culture. The Confederate flag is against tolerance—period—of any color, race, nationality and gender. I think that’s selfish and that’s privilege.”

Also in attendance were Rev. Clyde Tate, pastor of Greater Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Todd Martin, organizer with GetEQUAL Mississippi, Valerie Brown, civil rights advocate, Sharon Brown, sponsor of “Flag for All Mississippians” Initiative 55 and other officials.

“It’s necessary for our generation to stand up for equality and justice and to not back down in the face of opposition,” Horne said. “We must remain vigilant and (peaceful) and respectful because that is how we’re going to change this state.”

Advocates believe the Confederate flag is costing the state economic opportunity.

“The flag is a symbolic issue, and with the Confederate emblem, we are losing a lot of money for the state economically,” attendee and flag protester Jason Clark said.

Speakers and those rallying pointed out the change of The University of Mississippi’s mascot. If Ole Miss as a university can change their mascot, they reasoned, why could the state not change its flag?

“A lot about Confederate heritage has a lot of slants and distortions, and a lot of racial mess has been thrown into it to make the South look like a boogie man, when we’re not,” said Craig Hayden, a Confederate flag supporter. “The reason I’m here is because people do not know the basic terminology of the state flag or even the Confederate battle flag itself. If they’re going to complain about something, they should at least know their basic terminology.”

The ballot summary for Initiative 55 proposes to add the following language to the Mississippi Constitution: “The flag of the State of Mississippi shall not contain or include any reference to the Confederate army’s battle flag or to the Confederacy.”

As an enforcement mechanism, a Mississippi citizen may petition the Mississippi Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus requiring the state, its political subdivisions, their agents, officers or employees to comply with the amendment.

“If it does pass, there will be issues, because there’s always going to be a reaction from both sides—those who are for it, and those who are against it,” Clark said. “Long-term, it will be a symbol of hope that Mississippi will become the new South instead of being the Old South.”