Jackson County

Ocean Springs wants to recoup money that was 'bullied out of the city,' mayor says

The Mississippi state flag flies with the U.S. flag outside Ocean Springs City Hall.
The Mississippi state flag flies with the U.S. flag outside Ocean Springs City Hall. Sun Herald file

The city will try to force a nonprofit group that sued the city over the state flag to pay its legal fees.

A federal judge in Jackson on Wednesday dismissed the suit, saying Mississippi Rising Coalition failed to prove it suffered unequal treatment by the city.

Friday, the Board of Aldermen met briefly in executive session to give City Attorney Kevin Melchi the go-ahead to pursue the legal fees.

"We're going to recoup the money that was bullied out of the city from the residents by plaintiffs who filed a frivolous lawsuit," said Mayor Shea Dobson after the meeting. "It is a publicity stunt, we all know that."

Mississippi Rising President Lea Campbell, who has spoken against the flag, which has the Rebel battle flag in its canton, at council meetings and elsewhere. She has led marches in Ocean Springs and was a plaintiff in the suit.

She said she was there Friday to listen to what the city was up to. She didn't hear much.

"I don't know," she said. "We'll need to check the minutes of the executive session to see what occurred."

Campbell and other plaintiffs in the suit said the Rebel battle flag emblem is "racially demeaning and hostile."

Dobson, who defeated longtime Mayor Connie Moran last year, put the flag up at City Hall, where it had not flown in years. After protests, he agreed to take it down but then the aldermen voted to require it to be flown at all municipal buildings.

Supporters of the flag argue it represents history. Since the dispute over the flag began, though, members of the Ku Klux Klan posted a video on YouTube aimed at Campbell and the coalition.

"The boys are back and we're not backing down," said the video that was quickly removed. "Call us bigots if you want, but we win in the end."

Klan members also have distributed flyers at night in Ocean Springs on several occasions.