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.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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