A bipartisan group of Mississippi state lawmakers want to remove the emblem of the Confederate battle flag from the Mississippi state flag and appear to have support from at least one powerful Republican lawmaker.
The push from state lawmakers was approved by Republican Speaker of the Mississippi House Philip Gunn during a closed-door meeting, state Rep. Robert Johnson told CNN.
"Everybody is on board with getting rid of the messages of segregation, and the old South, and the Civil War, except Mississippi," said Johnson, a Democrat.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are in the process of wrangling votes for a resolution to allow changes to be made to the flag. All 45 Democratic members of the Mississippi House have signaled they will support that resolution. However, bipartisan support is needed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority.
The move comes following renewed efforts nationwide to remove memorials to the Confederacy as the nation grapples with the intertwined legacies of institutionalized racism and police brutality. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced he would remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but a judge has since blocked its removal. NASCAR declared Wednesday it is banning the Confederate flag at its races, and the US Navy and Marines have also moved to ban the Confederate battle flag from public display.
In protests throughout the country, statues of Confederate leaders and monuments to the Confederacy have been destroyed or defaced in recent days. Statues of Christopher Columbus have also been destroyed and defaced for his treatment of the Indigenous communities he encountered and for his role in the violent colonization at their expense.
President Donald Trump has been steadfast in his desire to see statues of Confederate leaders remain standing and on Wednesday used Twitter to oppose a push to remove Confederate commanders' names from American military bases.
The fight over the Confederate battle flag being included in the Mississippi state flag is not a new one.
Mississippi's flag has included the Confederate emblem -- a blue cross with 13 stars over a red background -- since 1894. Critics of the state flag say it's racist, while others believe it's a crucial part of the state's history. The last time the state considered changing the flag was in 2001. However, 65% of voters chose then to keep the flag with the Confederate symbol instead of switching to a flag with 20 white stars on a blue field to represent Mississippi's status as the 20th state.
Several cities and public universities, including the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, have ceased to fly the controversial state flag.
Mississippi state Rep. Christopher Bell, a Democrat who is spearheading the latest efforts to change the flag, said that he and Republican state Rep. Missy McGee formulated the idea together.
"It was basically (us) walking by each other in the hallway and we had started up the conversation, and we got to work in trying to form a small bipartisan group of folks to try to do a special resolution to change this flag," Bell said. CNN has reached out to Gunn and McGee for comment.
Johnson thinks that economic and social pressures have spurred Republicans lawmakers in this latest effort.
"I think they began to be embarrassed by it. It's affecting our economy," he added. "I think people are reticent about doing business with a state that continues to fly that flag."
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, told reporters Wednesday he would not support state lawmakers deciding to change the flag. He instead wants the people of Mississippi to have the final say.
"I believe that some point people will want to change the flag, but it should be done by a vote of the people, not by a vote of politicians doing a backroom deal in Jackson," Reeves said, referring to the state's capital city.
He added, "I believe that if we're going to have real change in our state, we've got to deal with the issue of the flag in such a way in which all Mississippians can come together at the end, rally around one another with whatever decision is made and work together to make a better Mississippi."