Harrison County

Protesting a holiday, and a flag that wasn’t there

At protest, South Mississippians say they want a new state flag

Mississippi Rising protests the holiday at the Harrison County Courthouse in Gulfport.
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Mississippi Rising protests the holiday at the Harrison County Courthouse in Gulfport.

A bit of irony was in the air at the Harrison County courthouse on Monday.

Mississippi Rising Coalition, a group of activists who have long been after the Board of Supervisors to take down the state flag because it has a Confederate emblem in its canton, was there to protest the courthouse being closed for Confederate Memorial Day. And, neither the American flag nor the Mississippi flag were flying.

Lea Campbell, president of the group, said they were protesting the flag and the holiday and Gov. Phil Bryant proclaiming April as Confederate Heritage Month.

“We are out here to protest a pattern that is being displayed by our state leadership to perpetuate and reinforce a neo-Confederate agenda that denies equal respect, dignity and opportunity to all Mississippians,” she told 15 or so protesters. She said the holiday was being paid for by taxpayers.

Matt Moore, another organizer and a third-generation veteran from Gulfport, said the state flag and the holiday are an insult.

“Celebrating, trying to sensationalize the Confederacy, is a slap in the face to, in my opinion, every American,” said Moore, who said he was born to a Latina mother and Caucasian father in 1976, when Mississippi still outlawed mixed-race marriages. Moore, like several of the protesters, repeatedly wondered aloud when Mississippi would move on from its Confederate past.

James Skinner of Gulfport, a history student at William Carey University, said the state was hurting itself.

“It goes against our own interests,” he said. “Economically, we’re losing business. Intellectually, we have a brain drain — our students are going to other states to work.”

TNathan Fairley of Biloxi said he came to the protest after going to Biloxi City Hall and finding the offices there were open.

He suggested an alternative meaning of the holiday.

“The Confederacy lost,” he said. “It’s not like we’re memorializing a great win in history. We’re not memorializing a great victory for human rights. We’re commemorating something that is deplorable.”

And with that, they marched off to take their message up and down U.S. 49.

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