Flag controversy facing Harrison Co. supervisors

Published: Feb. 1, 2016 at 10:20 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2016 at 10:54 AM CST
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HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The NAACP is taking its fight over Mississippi's flag to leaders of Coast counties. They say it's racist, offensive and needs to come down.

"Respectfully requesting that the board take immediate action to order the removal of the Mississippi state flag from all county owned or controlled buildings and grounds in Harrison County," said Biloxi NAACP President James Crowell, as he and Gulfport NAACP President Gary Fredericks addressed Harrison County supervisors.

The two NAACP leaders say there's no doubt. The current state flag is offensive to many and represents racism.

"The inclusion on our state flag of what is commonly called the Confederate battle flag, as its canton corner, is racist and thereby offensive to Afro Americans," said Crowell.

Wallace Mason begs to disagree. He and other backers of Initiative 58 collected petition signatures outside the courthouse, asking voters to show their support for the flag.

"We're trying to get it put on the ballot for 2018, and it's going to put our state flag into the state constitution, which will protect it," said Mason.

Mason also reminded supervisors that a majority of voters approved the Mississippi flag in a 2001 referendum.

"The flag haters say they want a new flag that represents all the people while trying to force the removal of our flag that was approved by two thirds majority. That's what makes this country great. We get to vote," Mason told the board.

There was no action taken by supervisors, not even any discussion, but the board's vice president said he will bring it up again.

"I think it should be brought up. I think it's an issue that I'm in favor of removing the flag, and getting, I think we should get a new flag that represents all of Mississippi," said Kent Jones, the only African American on the board.

The board president said this may be the wrong venue.

"I don't think it's the authority of this board to do that. Actually, that would be the state's call. So, I would encourage both sides to go to the state and lobby their legislators and their governor," said Beverly Martin.

Martin said if the issue is put on the agenda by another supervisor, it will certainly be considered.

Those asking county supervisors to take down the flag reminded them that other counties and cities in Mississippi have already taken action to remove the state flag from public grounds.

Flag supporters say they need 86,000 signatures to get Initiative 58 on the ballot.

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