Activists Rally at Capitol to Change Mississippi Flag

“Stand up, take it down!” is the chant repeated over and over again outside of the Mississippi Capitol on Monday as groups call to change the state flag.

Governor Phil Bryant has said he will not call a special session to discuss the issue which has gained traction after the racially-motivated killing of nine people in Charleston, South Carolina.

Activists at the all-day rally said their now exploring other ways to change it.

This is what’s being discussed: a clean bill originating from state legislators that would remove the confederate imagery from the state flag.

There would be lag-time. Lawmakers would need to wait to come back in session. There would also be a lot to discuss.

People at the rally did not at all talk about possible replacements. They also didn’t talk about the risk of veto from Governor Bryant.

The day’s events were more to drum up support. During a speed Attorney/activist Chokwe Antar Lumumba said it’s not the confederate flag pictured on the Mississippi flag – but a confederate battle flag.

That led Lumumba to make a point by asking with whom is the state going to battle?

“The history of this flag would suggest that the state has declared war against the sons and daughters of slaves and the plight of the poor,” Lumumba said.

A group of hecklers yelled through some speeches at the rally. They called to keep the flag as is.

“I mean, it’s a part of our heritage from our war and everything. And they think it’s because of racism and it’s not,” Eric Tarver, who stopped by the rally, said.

Governor Phil Bryant is going along with this thought process leaning on a 2001 ballot question in which voter chose in a landslide to keep the flag as is.

But Jody Owens, managing attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office says new allies in the legislature means it’s time for a change.

“But we see a big change today versus 2001. Speaker Philip Gunn, based on the conscience in his heart, based on his religion, came out and said the flag should be removed,” Owens said.

“That’s a very positive thing. I mean, he’s the fourth highest ranking individual in the state of Mississippi. And we’re getting there again. Change takes time. But I think if it wasn’t an election year people might be able to be a little more honest about their beliefs and what they believe,” Owens said.

Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham also says the board will be acting at a local level.

“We’re going to pass a resolution this coming Monday asking on behalf of the Hinds County board of supervisors, asking the governor to change it and having him send it to the legislature,” Graham said.

“You know, when I travel around the United States people have this impression of Mississippi. We need to change this perception. And the way that we do it is to start now,” Graham said.

One of Governor Byrant’s democratic opponents in the election has released this statement. Candidate Vicki Slater says “Our state flag should represent the prosperity of each and every Mississippian. Instead, our flag makes some feel unwelcome here.”

“It is time for us to proclaim Mississippi is open for business, and changing our flag will reflect our state’s progress,” Slater said in her statement.

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