By John Mott Coffey, with News Mississippi affiliate WQNZ
NATCHEZ, Miss.–The Mississippi state flag with its Confederate emblem was removed from where the Natchez Board of Aldermen meets, but Mayor Butch Brown said Thursday he didn’t have it taken out and didn’t know what happened to it.
The state flag used to be behind the chairs and desks of the mayor and aldermen in the City Council Chambers, but it was not there Thursday afternoon. It previously stood in a row with five other banners of the United States, France, Britain, Spain and Natchez.
When told the Mississippi flag was missing, the mayor said he’s had no previous discussions about removing it.
There is a renewed push for the Mississippi Legislature to change the state flag emblazoned with the controversial Confederate emblem, which is considered by many an offensive symbol of racism and hate.
The Mississippi flag had only recently been put in Natchez’ City Council Chambers building. It was not displayed for several years but was placed there in late 2014 or earlier this year.
The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted several years ago not to have the state flag where it meets and, in 2011, then-Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton ordered it be taken down when it briefly flew at the Natchez Police Department, according to news reports at the time.
The state flag is also not flying with the American flag on the pole in front of Natchez City Hall. It is at the neighboring Adams County Courthouse and in the Adams County Board of Supervisors office building.
The state flag is also flying on the grounds of the Natchez Visitors Center and the Natchez-Adams School District’s Braden administrative building.
Among those urging a redesigned state flag are U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker along with Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn — all Republicans. However, GOP Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves say it should remain as is. A majority of Mississippi voters in 2001 said to keep the old flag, which was originally adopted by the Legislature in 1894.
Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell on Monday urged the Legislature to remove the state flag’s Confederate emblem but said it’ll remain in his boardroom as long as it’s Mississippi’s official banner. It was just recently placed in the county boardroom by supervisors last year.
South Carolina today is removing the Confederate stars and bars from the state Capitol grounds after the state Senate and House passed a law this week to take it down. The national movement against the Confederate symbol has intensified since a white supremacist last month killed nine blacks in a Charleston, S.C., church.