JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi city is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to block it from flying the state flag that features the Confederate battle emblem.
Ocean Springs says in court papers filed Monday that flag opponents who brought the suit last month lack the legal standing to claim that the flag violates the federal Fair Housing Act.
"These causes of action are completely frivolous and not brought in good faith, but only to harass, intimidate, and waste precious resources of the City," attorney Kevin M. Melchi wrote on behalf of the Ocean Springs government.
Plaintiffs say the Confederate emblem is "racially demeaning and hostile" and that flying the flag sends the message that black people are not welcome.
Ocean Springs City Hall didn't fly the flag for several years under a previous mayor. After a new mayor took office last July, the flag went back up, prompting protests.
Confederate symbols have been the subject of widespread debate across the South, particularly since the 2015 killing of nine worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and violence last August when a white nationalist rally took place in Charlottesville, Virginia
Mississippi has used the same flag since 1894, and residents who voted in a 2001 statewide election chose to keep the Confederate emblem on it.
Several city and county governments and all eight of Mississippi's public universities have stopped flying the state flag in recent years amid critics' concerns that it does not properly represent a state where 38 percent of residents are African-American. Supporters of the flag say it represents history.
Ocean Springs is a coastal city with a population of about 17,650, and the lawsuit says about 7.5 percent of the city's residents are black.