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The Mississippi Flag Debate: Thompson, Reeves, Hosemann, Sojourner Comment

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The time for the Confederate Battle Flag to come off the Mississippi flag may be nearer than some have thought in recent days, with a mounting number of state and national politicians adding their voices to the call for change.

While posts on News Mississippi’s Facebook page and feedback on News Mississippi’s app and Talkback button have been nearly unanimous in the sentiment that the flag should stay as-is, top lawmakers seem to feel that the flag may no longer represent all of Mississippi’s citizens.

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“Our State will be 200 years old in 2017. If the flag does not represent our citizens today, then we, as a body, should select one that does,” said Sec. of State Delbert Hosemann in a statement Tuesday.

“This discussion must not deter from our efforts to create jobs, address the autism epidemic, reduce crime or educate our children.”

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves did not call for the flag’s removal, but was open to a discussion about changing it.

“The same discussion that South Carolinians are having now is one that Mississippians had 14 years ago when nearly two-thirds of our state voted to keep our current flag. If the citizens of our state want to revisit that decision, and I am sure at some point we may, it will best be decided by the people of Mississippi, not by outsiders, or media elites, or politicians in a back room,” said Reeves.

Congressman Bennie Thompson said in a statement on his website that he is “heartened” by the statement from Miss. House Speaker Phillip Gunn that the flag should be changed. He also said he will not be flying the flag at his DC headquarters.

“I support his efforts and urge other Mississippi legislators and elected officials to follow his lead,” said Thompson.

“Mississippi is the sole state with an actual depiction of the confederate battle flag in its state flag.  This flag is not just some piece of cloth that bears no importance; it is the physical manifestation of a time of hate, oppression and slavery that split this country at its seams. It also serves as a barrier around the entire State of Mississippi telling everyone else in this country that progress is not welcomed here.

“I love the state where I have lived my entire life but I will not offend the constituents who come to my office by having this symbol of intolerance greet them at the door.  I look forward to the opportunity to work with Speaker Gunn and other well-meaning Mississippians to make sure that we all have a flag in Mississippi that is more in line with the state’s “hospitality state” moniker and less grounded in the past.”

The acting chancellor of Ole Miss echoed others in calling for a change on behalf of the university.

“We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag,” said Morris Stocks in a statement Tuesday.

State Sen. Melanie Sojourner (R-Natchez) made it clear in a statement Tuesday that she does not support changing the flag.

“Mississippi has dealt more openly on the issue of race than any other state in the country and we have the scars to show for it. We do a terrible disservice to future generations when we refuse to be honest about our history and when we allow others who neither know nor care about our people to be the self-appointed arbiters of what is and is not a civilized discussion on the topic,” said Sojourner.

“The people of Mississippi understood this clearly when we decided this issue in 2001 in a referendum, and the people chose to keep the current flag. The will of the people of the state was made very clear. As an elected official I support that decision.”

The flag can be changed by a referendum, or by legislative process.

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