GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi state flag is staying put in Gautier. With a unanimous vote, city council members decided Tuesday night to continue flying the flag from city buildings. But they also unanimously supported a proposal by State House Speaker Philip Gunn calling for a new state flag.
A huge crowd of residents packed city hall when word got out that the council was considering the fate of the state flag.
The busy scene actually began outside, hours before the meeting even started, as folks lined up to make sure they got a seat in the meeting. One group even circled the Veterans tribute tower to recite the Lord's Prayer before the meeting.
Once inside, the emotionally charged comments began.
"I cannot tell you what it means to have to look at that flag and know what it stands for. It stands for hate. It stands for racism. It stands for fear. It stands for death," one resident told council members.
The opinions on Mississippi's state flag seemed to be split down the middle. Emotions regarding the state flag have been running high for months now, and this meeting was no exception.
"Then what's next? Our American flag's next. They're already talking about that," another resident said.
Nearly 30 people took to the microphone to express their thoughts on whether or not Gautier should remove the flag from city grounds. Many argued that the flag should remain in place until the state formally makes a change.
"It represents something, and if the people of Mississippi decide to change that flag, that's up to the people of the state of Mississippi. It is not up to the people of the city of Gautier," one resident said.
After more than an hour and a half of public comment, city leaders voted unanimously to keep the state flag in place at the Veterans Tribute Tower on City Hall grounds.
"I think it was the right move," Mayor Gordon Gollott said. "This is an official state flag and until such time that the legislatures decide to change the state flag, we as a city within the state of Mississippi, need to continue to fly that flag."
Gautier's council members did unanimously support State House Speaker Philip Gunn's proposal for a new state flag. Back in June, Gunn said that his Christian faith led him to the conclusion that Mississippi's flag has become a point of offense and it needed to be removed.