Gulfport city leaders unanimously decide to take down state flag

Gulfport city leaders unanimously voted Tuesday to take down the Mississippi state flag from city offices. Chet Landry joins us live with the very latest.
Updated: Jun. 16, 2020 at 3:00 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Outside Gulfport City Hall, the Mississippi flag is nowhere to be found, but the Magnolia Flag is. On Tuesday afternoon, Gulfport city leaders decided to take down the flag in a seven-to-zero vote.

State flag coming down in #Gulfport, #Mississippi today, June 16, 2020. White supremacy is terrorism, and it’s symbols have no place on our public spaces and on our state symbols. Today is a good day. #TakeItDownMS #BlackLivesMatter

Posted by Lea Campbell on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A release sent by the city Tuesday morning said Gulfport will only fly the historic Magnolia Flag if the vote passes.

The referendum was introduced by Councilman Kenneth “Truck” Casey.

The referendum will also go to Jackson, where the state’s second-largest city will ask legislators to change the flag, saying the current state flag was voted in “at a time when there was still divisiveness in the land as well as violence and hatred” and doesn’t represent the foundation of the United States “that now collectively serves as the heart of our one united country.”

Gulfport has flown the Magnolia Flag alongside the Mississippi state flag since 2017.
Gulfport has flown the Magnolia Flag alongside the Mississippi state flag since 2017.(WLOX)

In 2017, Gulfport made the decision to fly the Magnolia Flag under the state flag. At some point, however, the Magnolia Flag was taken down.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes: “This is not about erasing the past. It’s about being honest about the present and working toward a productive future. The reality is that Mississippi’s flag will be changed. The question is when, and into what?" said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes in 2017 when the city decided to fly the Magnolia Flag under the state flag.

The mayor’s 2017 statement continued, saying: “Had Mississippi’s first official flag, adopted in 1861 - the Magnolia Flag - been offered as a viable, historical alternative, the 2001 referendum might have delivered a different outcome.”

The Magnolia Flag was the first official state flag of Mississippi, flying from March 30,...
The Magnolia Flag was the first official state flag of Mississippi, flying from March 30, 1861, until August 22, 1865.(Mississippi Historical Society)

According to the Mississippi Historical Society, the Magnolia Flag was the first official state flag, flying from March 30, 1861, until August 22, 1865.

The flag recommended by the committee was “A Flag of white ground, a magnolia tree in the centre, a blue field in the upper left hand corner with a white star in the centre, the Flag to be finished with a red border and a red fringe at the extremity of the Flag.”

The Magnolia Flag was not widely used or displayed during the American Civil War, as the various Confederate flags were displayed more frequently.

Read the full statement released Tuesday morning from the City of Gulfport below:

"For too long, America has used Mississippi as a whipping post, vilifying our State when there is any stereotyping related to racial relations. While some of it is historically justified, there is ample evidence in today’s world that the South doesn’t have a monopoly on hatred bred from ignorance. Racial discord exists in every corner of our nation.

For too long, we in Mississippi have allowed others to define our identity and destiny. They would point out the speck in our eye, when they could not see the beam in their own. We don’t help our cause by clinging to segregationist imagery.

For too long, we have let discomfort, insensitivity, and acrimony hinder discussions on how best to move forward - for all of our people. This challenge is not one-sided, and has often been perpetuated by all races, creeds, and classes resulting in a collective unwillingness to consider the needs and experiences of others. The road to tolerance is a two-way street. Consideration, compassion, and civility, by all, are essential to any forward progress.

For too long, we have held on to symbols of the past. For all of our progress, we continue to embrace icons that have served to reinforce typecasts unbecoming to our citizens. This disposition impedes any real progress and fosters division.

For too long, we have allowed a flag to fly that has come to represent hatred, division, and insensitivity, for many. It has become a distraction from all that is good in our State. It is time for that to change.

The threads woven into the tapestry of our history reflect a story of blood, sweat, tears, resistance, rebellion, reform, resilience, redemption, rejoicing, promise, and character. We are rich, because of the diversity of our peoples and experiences, yet remain impoverished in spirit, as long as we let symbols of discord remain in any official capacity.

The hallmarks of decency and mutual respect hang in the balance in an America where too many are looking for reasons for outrage, rather than seeking common interests and solutions. It seems that, lately, the only thing that brings out the best in us is disaster or catastrophe. Mississippi should stand as an example on how to respond where there is need, and lead where there is opportunity.

A flag change may not totally unify us, but it will help to eliminate a perpetual hindrance to our progress as a State, and provide a revelation that, in Mississippi, anything is possible!

Gulfport City Councilman, Truck Casey, has offered a resolution calling on the State Legislature to enact a measure, providing for a new flag to represent Mississippi. With adoption of this Act, we will be replacing all banners at City buildings with the original standard of our State, the Magnolia Flag."

Click here to read the full referendum that will be voted on Tuesday.

Tuesday, the Gulfport City Council is expected to take up a resolution asking the legislature to change the state flag.

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