LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The state flag was the topic for a heated panel discussion at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Park campus Thursday night.
What impact does the state flag have on Mississippians? That was the question being asked to the panelists who represented organizations that have taken a public position on the Mississippi flag. Each one tried to make their point either for or against the flag.
"I looked up and realized my entire childhood I had been sleeping under the Confederate flag," one panelist said.
There was a packed house inside USM Gulf Park's Hardy Hall for a topic that's been the source of controversy lately; the Mississippi state flag and its Confederate battle emblem.
Associate professor of history Dr. Douglas Bristol organized the discussion after being approached by Lea Campbell, with the Mississippi Rising Coalition.
"What I'm hoping is that people will see there are many different perspectives on this flag, and they'll leave here having more arguments in their head than they came with," said Douglas.
Those who want the flag changed said it represents a dark past in Mississippi.
"Why we can sit down and come up with a flag that's agreeable with everybody," said panelist James Crowell, who is the President of the Biloxi Chapter of the NAACP.
"It is a relic whose place is in the halls of museums, not flown above public places or used as a representation of a melting pot of people that call Mississippi home," said one woman.
Not everyone believes the flag should be changed.
"It's a symbol of liberty, freedom, and morality. It's a symbol of original intent and all the things that America was built upon in the very beginning," said Dixie Alliance President Ray Shores.
When the floor was opened for discussion from the public, a shouting match erupted.
"You are a Nazi," one man shouted at Shores.
"The legislators of the State of Mississippi went back and redefined," said one panelist.
He was interrupted by a crowd member who called him a liar.
Shores said the flag represents Mississippi's heritage.
"The left has escalated all of their attacks and has gotten so much accomplished in America over the last 50 years," said Shores.
One crowd member argued the Mississippi flag dishonors the American flag.
"The Mississippi flag has a Confederate emblem in it, which is the only state that has a flag with its enemy in the flag," said one crowd member. "Should we have the rising sun in the State of Hawaii flag going over Pearl Harbor?"