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: 93556

Reported Deaths: 2810
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6974155
DeSoto541155
Harrison373272
Jackson338867
Madison320886
Rankin319075
Lee260667
Jones242078
Forrest239070
Washington217971
Lafayette208439
Lauderdale1999124
Bolivar179465
Oktibbeha175050
Lamar163134
Neshoba1536103
Panola144027
Sunflower141744
Lowndes139957
Warren138150
Leflore136980
Pontotoc123416
Pike121248
Monroe118865
Scott116425
Copiah116233
Coahoma112327
Holmes109258
Marshall107615
Lincoln106753
Grenada106135
Yazoo103829
Simpson101143
Union97824
Tate95137
Leake93937
Adams91936
Wayne87721
Pearl River86550
Marion84133
Prentiss81117
Covington80522
Alcorn77311
Itawamba76221
Newton75723
Tallahatchie75418
George74913
Winston72419
Tishomingo65837
Chickasaw65524
Tippah64216
Attala64125
Walthall59325
Clay57817
Hancock56121
Jasper55415
Noxubee54315
Clarke53539
Smith52314
Calhoun50612
Tunica47913
Montgomery45520
Claiborne45216
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41714
Perry40718
Quitman3745
Humphreys37315
Stone35511
Greene34517
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32511
Carroll31212
Amite31110
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2429
Benton2191
Franklin1893
Choctaw1795
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 131405

Reported Deaths: 2292
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19015337
Mobile13066289
Montgomery8674173
Madison758375
Tuscaloosa7240114
Lee571359
Shelby568450
Baldwin506149
Marshall383543
Etowah335547
Calhoun333839
Morgan319726
Houston270822
Elmore254947
DeKalb235519
St. Clair223435
Walker222680
Talladega206926
Limestone199519
Cullman184517
Dallas174826
Franklin174328
Russell17132
Autauga169024
Lauderdale164633
Colbert160626
Escambia156225
Blount155114
Jackson150611
Chilton148527
Dale133043
Covington130927
Coffee12778
Pike11559
Tallapoosa113683
Chambers113042
Clarke104917
Marion94228
Butler90938
Barbour8357
Winston70912
Marengo69919
Lowndes64827
Pickens63514
Bibb63210
Hale61528
Randolph60812
Bullock58714
Lawrence58520
Monroe5758
Geneva5724
Cherokee56516
Washington54613
Clay5427
Perry5376
Wilcox53111
Conecuh52311
Crenshaw52331
Macon47720
Henry4724
Fayette4219
Sumter41819
Lamar3462
Choctaw34512
Cleburne3236
Greene30015
Coosa1643
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