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Suit: Mississippi flag's rebel symbol 'racially demeaning'

The Mississippi flag is "racially demeaning and hostile" because it contains the Confederate battle emblem, says a new federal lawsuit that seeks to ban one city from any public display of the state banner.

Posted: Apr 5, 2018 11:30 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi flag is "racially demeaning and hostile" because it contains the Confederate battle emblem, says a new federal lawsuit that seeks to ban one city from any public display of the state banner.

"Ocean Springs' display of the Mississippi state flag is intended to — and does — send a message to its African-American citizens that they are second class citizens and are not welcome in Ocean Springs," says the lawsuit filed Wednesday by local residents who have been trying for months to have the flag removed from city property. "It also sends a message to African-Americans who might consider living or visiting the city that they too are not welcome and it deters them from moving into the city or visiting the city for both social and commercial purposes."

The lawsuit does not seek a statewide change of the banner that has been used since 1894. However, Carlos Moore, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, unsuccessfully filed his own suit in 2016 seeking to have the Mississippi flag declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery. A federal district judge rejected that argument, and higher courts refused to overturn that decision.

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 the violence that erupted last August when a white nationalist rally took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Mississippi residents who voted in a 2001 statewide election chose to keep the Confederate emblem on the flag. But, several Mississippi cities and counties, and all eight public universities, have stopped flying the flag in recent years amid criticism that the Confederate emblem is a racist reminder of slavery and segregation.

Ocean Springs is a coastal city with a population of about 17,650, and the lawsuit says about 7.5 percent of the residents are black. The city government didn't fly the flag for several years under a previous Democratic mayor. After a new Republican mayor took office last July, the flag went back up. Aldermen later adopted a resolution requiring the flag to be flown at City Hall and other municipal buildings.

Mayor Shea Dobson said Wednesday that he cannot comment on lawsuits against the city. The city attorney, Kevin Melchi, also declined to comment.

One plaintiff in the lawsuit is Mississippi Rising Coalition, a group that advocates removing the Confederate emblem from the flag and whose leaders have repeatedly asked Ocean Springs officials to stop flying the banner. Others plaintiffs are the coalition's president, Lea Campbell; Ronald Vincent, who is an African-American resident of Ocean Springs; and Curley Clark, who is the NAACP president in the county where Ocean Springs is located.

The lawsuit says that by flying the flag, Ocean Springs violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection for all citizens. The suit also says the city is violating the federal Fair Housing Act because the flag sends a signal that white people are preferred over others.

TNathan Lokius Fairley, spokesman for Mississippi Rising Coalition, said three members of the coalition recently received audio messages from a man who claims to be a Ku Klux Klan member. The messages criticized the coalition for opposing the flag.

Campbell told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and people of color have tried to have constructive conversations with Ocean Springs officials about removing the flag: "We've been dismissed and ignored and in some cases even shouted down and laughed at by the mayor and aldermen."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37542

Reported Deaths: 1272
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds304154
DeSoto200920
Madison150839
Jones123149
Harrison118316
Rankin113719
Neshoba104577
Forrest104343
Lauderdale97281
Scott83115
Jackson80419
Washington75313
Copiah67516
Leake63520
Lee63022
Grenada6259
Oktibbeha62328
Warren60021
Holmes59841
Lamar5847
Wayne56819
Yazoo5667
Lowndes54917
Leflore53956
Lincoln53835
Pike51120
Lafayette5094
Sunflower5058
Panola4616
Monroe46036
Simpson4533
Covington4505
Bolivar41618
Tate39513
Attala38624
Newton37710
Adams36720
Pontotoc3636
Marion34912
Claiborne31511
Pearl River30832
Chickasaw30219
Winston30211
Marshall2973
Jasper2826
Noxubee2799
Walthall2748
Clay26211
Smith25612
Union25612
Coahoma2356
Clarke22825
Lawrence2162
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie1974
Montgomery1863
Kemper18414
Carroll18311
Humphreys17410
Calhoun1705
Hancock15213
Itawamba1478
Tippah14711
Jefferson1373
Webster13511
Prentiss1274
Tunica1263
George1253
Jefferson Davis1254
Greene11610
Alcorn1112
Amite1113
Tishomingo1091
Quitman1011
Wilkinson1019
Perry914
Stone772
Choctaw764
Franklin572
Sharkey480
Benton470
Issaquena111
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 56441

Reported Deaths: 1136
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7012170
Mobile5061140
Montgomery4599112
Tuscaloosa274353
Madison25359
Marshall205012
Shelby176425
Lee164737
Morgan13975
Baldwin134111
Walker111332
Elmore107622
Etowah106914
Dallas10189
DeKalb10017
Franklin95016
Unassigned77728
Autauga71515
Russell7130
Chambers68530
Cullman6686
Limestone6653
Butler65529
Houston6417
Tallapoosa63069
Lauderdale6006
St. Clair5983
Calhoun5545
Colbert5286
Escambia5128
Lowndes49222
Pike4805
Jackson4422
Coffee4364
Covington43512
Talladega4177
Dale4061
Barbour4022
Bullock37810
Hale36323
Marengo36111
Chilton3452
Blount3311
Clarke3236
Wilcox3158
Marion30914
Winston3095
Sumter29713
Pickens2786
Randolph2759
Monroe2683
Perry2552
Conecuh2388
Bibb2271
Macon2229
Choctaw22012
Greene2009
Henry1573
Washington1529
Lawrence1460
Crenshaw1343
Cherokee1317
Geneva1010
Fayette901
Clay892
Lamar891
Coosa671
Cleburne481
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