Several members of the Hattiesburg community celebrated Confederate Memorial Day through a peaceful protest outside of the Forrest County Circuit Courthouse on April 24.
Members of the Mississippi Rising Coalition exercised their First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech and Assembly as they held signs and voiced their opinions on institutional racism and systematic injustices that they felt affect people of color in Mississippi.
Hattiesburg’s Joshua Generation Church pastor Brandiilyne Dear, who organized the protest, said Confederate Memorial Day is just a passive-aggressive attempt for the state to try to put people in their place.
“[The protest] sends a very clear message that we’re not going to have it,” Dear said.
“The Courthouse remained closed for the entire day due to the Confederate Memorial Day holiday.
The protesters stood in front of the Forrest County Confederate Monument, which was put in place by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Dear said they were protesting against the state holiday to push for progression in Mississippi. Dear also said Mississippi is the hospitality state, while holding a sign that read: “Hospitality for All?”
Governor Phil Bryant signed an official governor’s proclamation declaring the month of April as “Confederate Heritage Month” on March 31, 2016, according to the Jackson Free Press.
Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana are the only states that honor Confederate Memorial Day as a state holiday. Georgia used to celebrate the holiday, but removed it in 2015. The City of New Orleans began to take down monuments across the city on April 24.
“We are stuck in the past,” Dear said. “That [confederate] symbol on that flag is clear, and that symbol represents hate. I have several friends in interracial relationships who won’t come to Mississippi because of our flag. We’re not just hospitality for white upper class citizens, we’re hospitality for all.”
Protestor Annabeth Rowe held a sign that read: “DEPORT THE KKK,” “#TakeItDown” and “Not My Flag.”
“I’m not going to back down,” Rowe said. “Let yourself be uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to piss off your family. Piss off your friends. Piss off your coworkers.”
Rowe said that she is “woke.”
“To be woke means that you’re aware of the institutional racism, institutional poverty, environmental racism and what’s really going on,” Rowe said.
Dear said she could not understand the need for the holiday.
“There’s already Memorial Day that honors all soldiers,” Dear said. “This is not my heritage. This does not say, ‘Hey, you’re welcome here’ to all demographics in the State.”
Dear said she’ll continue to fight.
“It would be so easy to move away, but this is my state and my home,” she said. “We stay and we fight. If we open up a dialogue with other people then we can create change. These symbols cause harm to certain people.”