Much to the surprise of Biloxi’s mayor, all city buildings have not been flying the U.S. flag exclusively. He ordered the state flag and the city flag removed from all city facilities.
Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich learned of the inconsistencies Saturday at an NAACP and League of Women Voters forum for political candidates. The question of the Confederate flag on city buildings came up.
That’s when he learned his decision to fly only the U.S. flag had not been carried out at all city facilities, city spokesman Vincent Creel said Monday.
After Gilich took office, the state flag was taken down at City Hall, Creel said.
“He thought everyone at all city facilities had followed suit, but much to his surprise, they had not,” he said. “The mayor made it crystal clear today that he wants consistency,” Creel said.
Some city buildings were flying the U.S. and state flags, the U.S. flag and the city flag, or all three, he said.
The change was being made at all city buildings on Monday, which also was Confederate Memorial Day.
The Confederate battle flag, which is part of the state flag adopted in 1894, has become an increasingly controversial issue in Mississippi. NAACP chapters and groups such as the Flag For All Mississippians Coalition have been calling on city, county and state leaders to take the state flag down from their buildings.
About 5.7 million people a year visit the city.
“We don’t want to give them any reason to not come to Biloxi,” Creel said.
“We want to avoid any controversy with this state flag. It’s the right thing to do — period.”
NAACP leaders on the Mississippi Coast have asked Harrison, Jackson and Hancock county supervisors in the past year to take the state flag down from their buildings. Jackson County officials voted to keep flying the flag. Harrison and Hancock county officials did not take a vote.
Several state universities in the past year have decided to quit flying the state flag, including Ole Miss, which for years waved the battlefield flag at its football games.
Sirius XM radio commentator Joe Madison made a pitch for a new state flag Friday at an NAACP awards banquet in Pascagoula.
Two state flag initiatives failed to receive enough votes last year. It’s unlikely that new initiatives will be placed on state ballots until 2018.
Experts interviewed by the Sun Herald last June could not definitively say why Mississippi remains the only state to fly a confederate battle emblem.