There was a booth at the Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival over the weekend that wasn’t selling art, furniture, knick knacks or Coastal cuisine, but the stickers that were handed out from it caused a stir on social media.
The Mississippi Rising Coalition set up a tent at the festival, handing out stickers and cards that said, “Mr. Mayor, Take It Down!”
The stickers show opposition to the Mayor Shea Dobson’s decision to fly the state flag again at City Hall.
The booth also handed out blank cards to visitors so people could write their own comments to the mayor about the flag, said Lea Campbell, president of Mississippi Rising Coalition.
MRC is joining Macedonia Baptist Church at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting to ask Dobson to take down the flag they say doesn’t represent all Mississippians. They’ll likely present some of the cards they collected from the festival.
“We left the back blank so people could let the mayor know their thoughts on the flag issue,” Campbell said. “We’ll deliver them in some form or fashion in the future.”
A lot of people were talking about the booth on social media, including Dobson’s mother.
“Really? At the festival? Not the place for it!!” Mary Brown DeBell said in a public post. She later deleted the post.
Dobson made his own Facebook post as well on Saturday, and it sparked debate in the comments section about Dobson’s stance on the flag and how he’s been running the city since defeating Connie Moran.
“If you spent the past 8 years making excuses for Obama killing innocent kids with drones, spying on American citizens ... maybe you shouldn’t be lecturing people on resisting fascism,” Dobson wrote in the post.
Many people praised Dobson for being “real” and sharing his voice with his constituents.
Others decried the post and said he should be more concerned about greeting visitors at Peter Anderson than posting to Facebook.
Dobson, who said on Tuesday he’s met with MRC before about his stance on the flag, said he feels the group is targeting him.
“I was just curious where they were at over the past 12 years when the state flag was flying over the police department and the fire department,” Dobson said. “Why was it never an issue that the state flag was flown in Ocean Springs until now?”
Newly in office, Dobson raised the state flag over City Hall, where it had not been flying previously.
Dobson said he has a “moderate” position on the state flag and has called for a new vote regarding its decision.
“The world has changed a lot since 2001 when the last vote was taken,” he said. “I wasn’t even old enough to vote.”
“If it’s changed, then I’ll fly the changed flag. If it says the same, I’ll fly the current one. To me, that’s a very moderate position.”
Campbell said: “We are certainly holding him accountable as the public official with the sole authority to decide which flags to fly at City Hall and other municipal properties. He decided to use that authority unilaterally without consult with or dialogue with his community, particularly the members of his community who would be most impacted by his decision.”
She said MRC believes the flag represents white supremacy and discrimination.
She said the group formed in April 2016, not 12 years ago, and has worked with officials across the state — including former Mayor Connie Moran — and made headway. She said they tried to start a dialogue with Dobson, but described the few meetings they have had with him as unproductive.
Campbell said many people had a positive response to the booth, which aligns with MRC’s #TakeItDown campaign to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.
She said a physical therapist from North Carolina stopped by her booth at Peter Anderson and sent an email about the state flag this week.
Campbell said the therapist told her, “I want you know that I wrote a more in depth message to your mayor, Shea Dobson, on my feelings about Ocean Springs and the MS flag and how it affects my spending, travel plans, and what I tell my friends back home.”