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: 147382

Reported Deaths: 3763
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto973199
Hinds9668197
Harrison6898109
Jackson6178119
Rankin5319100
Lee487695
Madison4666106
Forrest371386
Jones346788
Lauderdale3355144
Lafayette317549
Washington3122107
Lamar283449
Oktibbeha240861
Bolivar240184
Lowndes229763
Neshoba2177115
Panola215849
Marshall209650
Leflore201490
Pontotoc196128
Monroe191477
Sunflower190555
Lincoln186865
Warren172657
Tate165451
Union163925
Pike160658
Copiah159540
Yazoo152039
Scott150729
Coahoma148743
Itawamba148234
Pearl River146567
Alcorn146327
Simpson145153
Prentiss141230
Adams137949
Grenada137745
Leake131943
Holmes126561
Tippah123030
George122324
Covington119737
Winston119124
Wayne116223
Hancock115939
Marion111646
Attala109833
Tishomingo106542
Chickasaw104132
Newton103629
Tallahatchie96327
Clarke88853
Clay87127
Jasper81222
Walthall75328
Stone73114
Calhoun72913
Montgomery72125
Carroll70614
Lawrence70314
Yalobusha70027
Noxubee69717
Smith69616
Perry65426
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57616
Jefferson Davis55017
Humphreys52918
Amite51814
Benton48717
Quitman4816
Webster42114
Kemper41918
Wilkinson38722
Jefferson34211
Franklin3265
Choctaw3117
Sharkey30717
Issaquena1124
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 239318

Reported Deaths: 3532
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31391491
Mobile19562361
Tuscaloosa12813154
Madison12741146
Montgomery12198235
Shelby1000577
Baldwin847398
Lee764466
Morgan634348
Calhoun6112115
Marshall607954
Etowah606565
Houston517038
DeKalb474736
Cullman428038
Limestone413744
St. Clair409055
Elmore400762
Lauderdale393653
Walker3588108
Talladega343453
Jackson307624
Colbert301941
Blount285539
Autauga268641
Franklin247833
Coffee239715
Dale230354
Dallas224531
Russell22053
Chilton219638
Covington216833
Escambia197431
Chambers173749
Tallapoosa173391
Pike157514
Clarke156319
Marion136535
Winston129923
Lawrence124836
Geneva12028
Pickens119418
Marengo119124
Barbour117010
Bibb116217
Butler114441
Randolph100921
Cherokee100824
Hale94531
Clay90223
Washington90219
Fayette87316
Henry8496
Lowndes79129
Monroe78111
Cleburne75714
Macon72321
Crenshaw70730
Bullock69119
Conecuh68314
Perry6756
Lamar6508
Wilcox63118
Sumter57122
Choctaw41913
Greene41418
Coosa3374
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