Supervisors Say The Confederate Flag Will Stay

Confederate battle flag supporters abandoned their post on the beach in Biloxi on Monday.

Battle flag backers returned to the flag display at the foot of Debuys Road last week, one day after a college student began protesting the flag's re-appearance on the beach. Jason Whitfield's protest against the flag has gone on for six days now. He wants Harrison County supervisors to remove what he calls an emblem of hate and racism.

On Monday, the cars and campers full of confederate flag supporters were missing from the protest site. Organizers who want the Confederate battle flag to stay sent flag wavers home, saying there is no controversy because the people of Harrison County have spoken through their supervisors.

"All of us supporters got together, we decided that we will remove all the Confederate symbols from this beach from our display and leave the Confederate symbol that our Board of Supervisors chose to put up here," flag supporter Ron Dougherty said.

Two of the four supervisors who voted to replace the confederate flag at the beach were out of town on Monday. However, District Three Supervisor Marlin Ladner told WLOX News that the anti-flag protest will not change what the people of Harrison County want, and that his decision to fly the confederate flag stands.

"The board has not discussed anything about re-thinking the decision," Ladner said. "The protesters say they have almost 1,200 signatures on a petition to remove the battle flag. People have a right to petition their government, but it does not necessarily make a difference whether we will change the flag or not."

Flag protesters say it's a hate symbol and does not belong on a taxpayer-funded public display.

"I disagree. I think the symbol is a symbol of our heritage and history," Ladner said. "It's a fact, whether people like it or not. It is a historical fact that that flag flew during the Civil War, and that's what we're recognizing."

The American flag flies above all eight flags. Some have said it's a violation of federal flag etiquette. But Ladner says the board researched flag protocol and found it is only a violation if the second flag is that currently used by another nation.

"These are historical flags of these nations, and therefore the statute does not apply."

As for the debate between history and hate, Ladner says people on both sides of the flag issue should respect the other's opinion.

"For the past 30 years or so, this country has always prided itself on diversity and tolerance, and I think diversity and tolerance is a two-way street," Ladner said. "The majority of the people in Harrison county, I believe and I think the other board member believe, want the battle flag at the flag display to fly."

District Two Supervisor Larry Benefield agreed with Marlin Ladner and said the board has no plans to bring the Confederate flag issue up for a vote again.

"Before we voted, each one of us did a lot of soul searching to be sure to do the right thing. After giving it a lot of thought, I think I made the decision that best represents the feelings of my constituents," Benefield said.