University of Southern Mississippi police removed the Mississippi state flag from the pole in front of the Hattiesburg campus and replaced it with an American flag about 11 a.m. today (Oct. 28), about an hour before a planned protest against the state flag was to take place.
“I have chosen to raise American flags on all University of Southern Mississippi flagpoles to remind the university community of what unites us. We have all chosen to work, study and live in a country in which debates like those around the state flag of Mississippi can take place and ideas can be civilly expressed and advanced,” said university president Rodney D. Bennett in an email to students. “While I love the state of Mississippi, there is a passionate disagreement about the current state flag on our campuses and in our communities. I am looking forward to a time when this debate is resolved and USM raises a state flag that unites us.”
Demonstrators against flying the Mississippi state flag stand in front of the flagpole on the University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg campus today, pushing what they believe is the “right side of history” and chanting “Southern Miss, take it down.”
“These all portray hate. It’s all the same emotions, because of the heritage behind these. If we can’t fly the (Nazi flag), then we shouldn’t fly the (Confederate flag),” said Cindy Hornsby, Purvis resident. “We are alienating an entire population of our state.”
The move comes after The University of Mississippi took down the state flag with a student government vote of voted 33-15 with one abstention last week.
“We count it as a victory,” said Susan Hrostowski, associate professor of social work and organizer of the demonstration. Hrostowski said that university police taking down the flag occurred external of the demonstrators’ influence and hopes the change is permanent.
“It’s been months, even years (leading to this event),” Hrostowski said. “It’s always been an underlying current to change things. Mississippians reacted after the events in Charleston when nine people were murdered in their church.”
Counter-protests formed soon after the original picketers arrived with signs and chants of their own.
“I’m pretty sad people are trying to erase my history and heritage,” said Isaac Hitt, senior computer science major.
Holding a sign stating “Save the state flag,” Hitt said that removing the state flag could result in censorship of history.
“I don’t believe in slavery, but I do not believe you should cherry pick the good-and-bad of history,” Hitt said.
Other students agreed with Hitt’s stance, saying that the state flag issue only deflects the state from addressing other problems within Mississippi.
“We (as a state) have bigger issues to tackle,” said Ian Shurden, junior recreational therapy major. “The state’s crime level, poverty, our crumbling infrastructure – I can stand here all day.”
Shurden, however, said that he will stand with any decision that the state makes regarding the flag.
“If the state flag changes, I will be okay with it. I will be a Mississippian until the day I die,” he said.
Stay with the Printz as more details emerge.