Fierce de­bate led to Mis­sis­sippi flag vote

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Diane Pan­ta­leo Mis­sis­sippi Clar­ion Ledger

JACK­SON, Miss. – Mis­sis­sippi law­mak­ers voted to re­move the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle em­blem from the state flag this week­end after fierce de­bate that Gov. Tate Reeves called “as di­vi­sive as the flag it­self.”

The bill to change the state flag passed Se­nate 37-14. The House ap­proved the bill with a vote of 84-35.

How the move to change gained mo­men­tum

It’s not the first time law­mak­ers have tried to change the state flag, first ap­proved in 1894. How­ever, as other cities worked to re­move Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments from pub­lic ar­eas and amid protests and dis­cus­sions of racial in­jus­tice after the death of Ge­orge Floyd, the flag has come un­der re­newed, sharp crit­i­cism.

One of those who spoke out was Mis­sis­sippi State run­ning back Kylin Hill, who said he would not rep­re­sent ‘this State any­more’ as long as the flag’s design was not changed.

“The voice of this young man was a tremen­dous voice,” Demo­cratic Rep. Ome­ria Scott said Sunday dur­ing de­bate over the bill.

Oth­ers, such as Ole Miss men’s bas­ket­ball coach Ker­mit Davis, Mis­sis­sippi State foot­ball coach Mike Leach and mu­sic star Faith Hill, weighed in as well.

What’s next for the leg­is­la­tion?

Reeves has in­di­cated that he will sign the bill to change the flag and that he will do so within the com­ing days.

What does the bill do?

When signed into law, it would im­me­di­ately take down the flag and set up a nine-mem­ber com­mis­sion to design a new one. This means the flag will be com­ing down across the state within the com­ing days.

A new design will in­clude the words “In God We Trust” and no Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle em­blem, ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion. Vot­ers would then get to ap­prove or re­ject the com­mis­sion’s design in Novem­ber. If vot­ers re­ject the design, it re­turns to the com­mis­sion to be redesigned.

Key take­aways from the de­bates

Here are some high­lights from the de­bates:

● Speaker Pro Tem Jason White, a Repub­li­can, spoke on the House floor in fa­vor of the bill. “Many op­po­nents of chang­ing the state flag say we should stand up to what is right, that we shouldn’t cave to out­side pres­sure … even if it’s bad for busi­ness,” White said. “I agree with those peo­ple . ... I’m here to­day be­cause it is sim­ply the right thing to do.”

● Sen. Bar­bara Black­mon, a Black Demo­crat, said she had wit­nessed sev­eral ma­jor his­tor­i­cal mo­ments, but she never ex­pected the state flag to come down in her life­time. “The time has come to take this flag down, be­cause it is right,” she told her col­leagues.

● Sen. Chris Mc­Daniel, a Repub­li­can, ar­gued that in the fu­ture, peo­ple who view the Amer­i­can flag as op­pres­sive may want to take it down as well and that vot­ers should de­cide whether to change the state flag. “I don’t see how that makes me a racist,” he said. “I don’t see how that makes me a ter­ri­ble hu­man be­ing.”

BAR­BARA GAUNTT/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Pro-state flag sup­port­ers out­side the state Capi­tol in Jack­son on Sunday.

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