Hundreds rally against Confederate sign on Mississippi flag

2015-10-12 07:28
People march to a change-the-flag rally in Jackson, Mississippi. (Joe Ellis, AP)

People march to a change-the-flag rally in Jackson, Mississippi. (Joe Ellis, AP)

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Jackson - Civil-rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams, Mississippi-born rapper David Banner and a prominent South Carolina lawmaker are calling on Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle emblem of the pro-slavery South during the US Civil War from its state flag.

About 400 people took part in a change-the-flag rally on Sunday outside the Mississippi Capitol. No alternative design was proposed.

Three men holding large flags with various Confederate emblems watched the rally from a distance across the Capitol lawn.

Critics say the Mississippi flag is a divisive reminder of slavery and segregation and doesn't represent a state where 38% of the 2.9 million residents are black. Supporters say they see the Confederate emblem as a symbol of history and heritage.

The emblem - a blue X with 13 white stars, over a red field - has been on Mississippi's flag since 1894, and voters chose to keep it in 2001. But the massacre of nine black worshippers in June at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, has renewed debate about the public display of Confederate symbols.

Police said the mass shooting in Charleston was racially motivated, and the suspect had previously posed for photos with the rebel flag.

Hurting Mississippi’s economy

South Carolina state Rep. Jenny Horne said on Sunday that Mississippi is hurting its own economy by keeping the battle emblem on the state flag.

"It is a new South. The economic development opportunities that Mississippi is missing out on — you don't even know it, but it's costing all citizens jobs," said Horne, who gave an impassioned speech in July as South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove a Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia.

Evers-Williams was chairperson of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People from 1995 to 1998 and is the widow of Medgar Evers, the Mississippi NAACP leader who was assassinated outside their family's Jackson home in 1963.

At the rally on Sunday, she noted that Confederate General Robert E Lee had distanced himself from Confederate symbols after the South lost the Civil War.

"If a former Confederate general recognizes the divisiveness of a symbol of disunity, we must do so, also," Evers-Williams said.

Banner said Mississippi hurts itself by failing to fully recognise its troubled history, and flying a state flag with the Confederate battle emblem is an insult.

"What was the Civil War fought over?" Banner said. "Be honest. Slavery."

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