The presidents of the Gulfport and Biloxi branches of the NAACP asked the Harrison County Board of Supervisors to remove the Mississippi state flag from all county property, saying the inclusion of the Confederate Battle Flag in the corner is inherently racist.
A representative for Initiative 58, the proposed constitutional amendment that would require the state to keep the current flag, cited the 2001 vote in favor of the current flag and asked the Board to keep it flying.
The Board took no immediate action.
"We make this request because it has been our firm opinion for years, based on historical data, personal observation and numerous discussions, that 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 African-Americans," James Crowell, the president of the Biloxi NAACP read from a letter sent to the board. "We will not belabor the basis of our opinion nor argue with the revisionists of history of the Civil War or Southern apologists. Instead, we call your attention to the attached copy of Mississippi's Declaration of Secession upon which our state's unfortunate and disastrous decision to leave the Union was based."
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Mississippi's Declaration of Secession reads, "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery, the greatest material interest of the world."
Wallace Mason, a member of the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and a representative of Initiative 58, argued the current flag is the will of Mississippians.
He dismissed concerns about the effect the flag had on tourism and business, saying no one had presented evidence of harm and citing success in several industries across the state. The casinos built on the Coast, Chevron and the shipbuilding industry, as well as other successful businesses in southern Mississippi haven't complained about the flag, he said.
"They don't have the right to demand the flag be taken down from any public building after it was voted on by the majority," Mason said. "Nobody has the right to remove something the majority voted on. That's what makes this country great."
Other supporters of Initiative 58 also set up a tent and collected petitions outside the county courthouse in Gulfport.
NAACP representatives made the same request of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors on Monday morning.