Court rejects appeal from MS Rising Coalition on state flag lawsuit

Court rejects appeal from MS Rising Coalition on state flag lawsuit
The state flag flying over Ocean Springs City Hall has been put up and taken back down more than twice since Shea Dobson was elected (Source: WLOX)

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi state flag will continue to fly over city hall in Ocean Springs after a recent decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals unanimously rejected an appeal from the Mississippi Rising Coalition of the dismissal of its lawsuit against the City of Ocean Springs over the flying of the Mississippi state flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag in its canton.

The plaintiffs named in the lawsuit include Mississippi Rising Coalition President Lea Campbell, Jackson County NAACP President Curley Clark, and Ronald Vincent, an African-American resident of Ocean Springs whose family members have lived in Ocean Springs since 1926.

The lawsuit claimed the city violated the Fair Housing Act when the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution requiring the state flag to be flown over city hall and other municipal buildings.

The plaintiffs argued that the city’s display of the “racially demeaning and hostile state flag” violates the Fair Housing Act by expressing “a preference for white residents and a corresponding discouragement, and suppression, of African-American residents.”

The dismissal from the Court of Appeals, filed Monday, said the plaintiffs failed to establish standing under the Fair Housing Agreement and that flying the state flag over public buildings is not a “discriminatory housing practice.”

Ocean Springs Mayor Shea Dobson made no secret of his feelings on the lawsuit.

“It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest because it was a frivolous lawsuit everybody knows that, and everybody knew it from the beginning," he said.

In fact, the Ocean Springs Board of Aldermen voted during a June executive session to move forward with filing a claim to ask a judge to order Mississippi Rising to pay the city’s legal bills.

However, the Court of Appeals rejected that as well.

“My position hasn’t changed. It’s the state flag, and it will fly," Dobson said.

He said his decision has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that it’s the state flag.

“This is Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and therefore, we should fly the Mississippi State Flag. It really boils down to that. Anybody who has tried to make my intentions or say that I have alternative motives frankly is do nothing but intentionally stirring the pot,” Dobson said.

Lea Campbell with the Mississippi Rising Coalition did not seem deterred by the court’s decision.

“Our opinion on the city’s decision to display the Confederate emblem, a symbol representing white supremacy and government-sanctioned violence and discrimination based on race, remains unchanged despite the 5th Circuit’s ruling. We are pleased that the 5th Circuit denied the city’s request for sanctions and attorney’s fees, and we will consult with our attorneys in the near future to decide how we will proceed," she said.

Dobson said he is not opposed in voting for a new flag. However, whatever the state flag is, Dobson said it will fly.

“I’ve called for a new vote from the very beginning because I think we do need a new vote. I’m not married to any design on the flag. I don’t care if we put an emoji on the flag; if that’s the flag it will fly.”

You can read the full opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals HERE.

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