Mississippians react to bill removing state flag as it awaits governor’s signature

Mississippians react to bill removing state flag as it awaits governor’s signature
Mississippi State Capitol (Source: WMC)

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (WMC) - A new Flag may soon fly over the state of Mississippi.

All eyes now turn to Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves who has promised to sign a historic bill passed by state legislators Sunday to remove the controversial state flag but it’s still unclear when that will happen.

Once he does, all state flags across the state must be removed within 15 days. The flag outside Southaven City Hall has already been removed.

We reached out to Governor Reeves’ office Monday after the state House and Senate passed the historic bill Sunday in a landslide vote, removing the state flag containing the Confederate battle emblem.

The flag flying above the capitol building in Jackson was taken down quickly after the vote Sunday.

Gov. Tate Reeves expected to sign bill to remove state flag in coming days

A representative of the Reeves said once the legislature sends the bill to the Reeves’ desk, he will address the state and then sign it into law.

Sources say that will not happen Monday.

Some lawmakers were emotional after the historic vote Sunday.

“Now that this is gone, I think that people will begin to look and see who the real Mississippi is,” said Representative Robert Johnson III, (D) District 94. “They’ll begin to see that we’re more than what that flag represents. That we’re a people that care for each other, that are willing to work together and are willing to go forward together and that’s what that says.”

“We’re setting forth an opportunity here to rebrand our image if you will,” said Rep. Phillip Gunn, (R) Speaker of the House. “And I think that can only result in positive for our state, it positions us to reach our full potential.”

After the governor gives his signature, a commission of nine people will be appointed by the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor and Reeves.

That commission will choose one new flag design by September 14.

Miss. Senate passes bill to change state flag

The new design cannot include the Confederate battle emblem, and must include, “In God We Trust.”

Mississippians will get the opportunity to vote on the proposed flag design in November.

The debate over the Mississippi flag is not new.

For generations, people on both sides of the issue have argued over the controversial flag containing the Confederate battle emblem, Sunday that debate came down to a historic vote.

Legislators broke out in applause, some hugging each other when House Bill 1796 passed in an overwhelming vote in both the state House and Senate.

Some, like Attorney Carlos Moore, have been waiting years for this moment.

“Just a floor of emotions filled me. Chills went down my spine,” said Carlos Moore, Attorney for the Cochran Law Firm. “I could not hold back my tears as hard as I tried. It was such a long-fought battle. I wanted this for so long.”

Moore sued the Mississippi Governor’s Office in 2015 over the state flag, fighting for several years for its removal.

In 2017, the Supreme Court rejected the case and his fight ended.

“I knew it would come down,” Moore said. “I kept the faith and never wavered.”

Moore says seeing the first flag removed over the state Capitol is a seminal moment in the lives of black people across the state.

“It means a lot to black people of every generation,” said Moore. “Some black people in the 90′s, 80′s, 60′s, 70′s they never thought they would see this day.”

Mississippians on the other side of the issue have raised their voices, too.

“I love this flag,” said David Flynt, a Mississippi resident.

A small group who oppose the vote to remove the flag demonstrated outside the Capitol Sunday.

They wanted legislators to put the flag removal to a vote of Mississippians.

Remembering 2001: Voters choose to make current state flag official

In 2001, state voters rejected a referendum to remove and replace the flag.

“I’m sad that they deemed it upon themselves to take away our vote,” said Tessa Collett.

When Reeves signs the bill into law, Mississippians will be given the opportunity to vote again, this time in November to choose a new flag design to represent the state.

Moore hopes the new flag will unite every Mississippian.

“This is a step in the right direction, we have many miles to go but this is a historic and important step to forgiveness and reconciliation,” said Moore.

A representative from Reeves office says the governor plans to address the state before he signs the bill. He plans to do that in the coming days.

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