Jackson County

‘Take it down,’ marchers chant. The mayor had a message for them at OS City Hall.

They marched through the heart of the city at dusk, chanting “Take it down.”

They passed shoppers and a few owners who stood at their doors, under the white Christmas lights, watching.

More than 120 marched from Marshall Park to City Hall to protest the Board of Aldermen’s decision to make flying the state flag mandatory at city buildings. Others joined them at the flag pole.

The Confederate emblem in the flag — that many see as a symbol of racism — was at the heart of the issue.

About half the marchers were from out of town with Mississippi Rising Coalition and other organizations, but many were from the city and those marchers said it was “exhilarating” to be part of the march. Another said, “gratifying.” Still, another was surprised at the large turnout.

One motorist passed them and yelled, “Keep it up.” Another stood at the front door of a bar and shouted, “Go to hell.”

The chanters didn’t react. The line of marchers was so long that the chanting at the head the group was on a different rhythm than the marchers at the end.

The signs they carried: “Y’all means all.” “Terrorism.” “Ocean Springs United Against White Supremacy.” “Yes, it’s racist.” “Shame on Ocean Springs.”

The crowd was a mix. You saw jeans and suits, white and black, young and retired.

When they got to City Hall, aldermen looked out the east side door. John Gill came out to the street.

When they went inside, it was such a crowd before the aldermen that Police Chief Mark Dunston reminded everyone to be nice, and Fire Chief Jeff Ponson warned that some had to leave the hall outside the board meeting, because of fire code.

The mayor’s statement was that everyone has ignored the fact that, besides ordering the flag be flown, the city also asked the state to hold a new vote on the flag design.

“That has been conveniently ignored,” Mayor Shea Dobson said. “I issue of formal challenge to the media to tell the whole truth.”

There were 21 supporters for the flag and for Mayor Shea Dobson in the audience, and the mayor alternated speakers before the board to get both sides.

Outside City Hall, attorney Jeremy Eisler called it a farce that the state has a Civil Rights Museum and it’s still flying the Confederate flag.

“It would be nice if the Legislature did the right thing,” he said.

But in the board room, Curley Clark, with the NAACP, tried to impress upon the board members that with the vote for the flag, “they failed to realize the way Ocean Springs will be viewed going forward.”

Comments before the board went on for almost an hour, three minutes at a time.