Gulfport City Council to vote on removing the state flag at municipal offices

If approved, the referendum also asks legislators to change the state flag.

Gulfport City Council to vote on removing the state flag at municipal offices
The Confederate battle emblem in the corner of the Mississippi state flag continues to fan the flames of debate over whether or not it should be taken down or changed.

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - City leaders in Gulfport will vote Tuesday on a referendum that could remove the state flag from flying at city offices. The referendum also asks state legislators to change the state flag.

Gulfport city council to vote on removing state flag at municipal offices
Gulfport city council to vote on removing state flag at municipal offices (Source: Photo WLOX)

Authored by Ward 1 Councilman Kenneth “Truck” Casey, the referendum says the confederate emblem on the current Mississippi flag does not represent the values and principles of Mississippians.

The referendum asks state legislators to respectfully retire the state flag and to adopt a new flag, saying in part, that flags should exemplify the societies they represent and serve to unify people, which is something the current state flag does not do.

“While the ‘confederate battle flag,’ which is believed to have never been adopted as an official flag of the Confederacy, was utilized in the battlefield during the Civil War and has stood for different things for different peoples through the ages, it has come to be understood and serves for many as a painful reminder of past days of transgressions in this State and has also been used by some as an image of hatred, divisiveness, and violence, none of which in any way represents the ideals and principles of our great Nation, our proud State, or our vibrant City,” states the referendum.

If voted on by the city council, the referendum will go to Jackson, where the state’s second largest city will ask legislators to change the flag, saying the current flag was voted in “at a time when there was still divisiveness in the land as well as violence and hatred” and doesn’t represent the foundation of the United States “that now collectively serves as the heart of our one united country.”

It’s a decision Casey thinks should be made by state legislators instead of one that should be put to a vote.

“The legislators would be appropriate. I think it should be a law. It should go to the legislators, let them make a decision," he said. “They are the people who are voted in office and let should make the decision based on what their constituents want. And right now, that’s what people are asking them to do. It’s all about politics. That flag, that confederate symbol on that flag, needs to come down in the state of Mississippi.”

The flag, which was adopted in 1894 in the post-Civil War era, has long been a source of contention in Mississippi. In 2001, however, the issue of changing the flag was put to a referendum vote by citizens, who voted to keep the flag as it remains today.

Councilman Casey says the current flag needs to go because it’s become a symbol of hate and divisiveness by some and is often used to represent division, hatred, and violence.

Gulfport city council to vote on removing state flag at municipal offices
Gulfport city council to vote on removing state flag at municipal offices (Source: Photo WLOX)

If Gulfport votes to approve the referendum, the state flag would no longer be flown over any municipal offices. According to Casey, that would go a long way to making the city feel more welcoming to tourists and businesses, which would lead to increased revenue.

“The timing is just right," said Casey. “With the economy as bad as it is, it’s deterring tourism... {The flag} doesn’t stop me from obtaining an income or taking care of my family, but it is a problem for the people who come here to visit and bring their business here, who we receive tax revenue from. It’s hindering the growth, the economic development, you name it, everything... morale, tourism, everything that you can think of in the state of Mississippi.”

For Casey and many others, it’s not the stars and bars on the flag that’s the problem.

“I have friends who have family members who were in the Confederate Army. That was their heritage," said Casey. “But the flag isn’t so much about attacking their heritage. I support heritage. It’s the fact that the flag has been used by white supremacist groups during the time they were lynching black folks and creating turmoil, killing black people," Casey said. “You know, the {Confederate Army} wasn’t out there doing things that the Ku Klux Klan and the white supremacists groups did back in the days against the blacks. They used that flag. They disgraced that flag for hundreds of years. Somebody should’ve been opposing on those groups of using that flag. That is what created the problem for the flag," Casey said.

Casey said he is 66 years old and grew up during the Civil Rights Era and remembers segregation. The flag is a negative reminder of the racism that was seen then and in the years since, he said.

“{The flag} was used as a symbol of what they were doing. They’re the ones that are really to blame because of the way they used it as a symbol for those things,” said Casey. “Heritage is good but it’s the way they have used that flag for hundreds of years. And it’s bad for the state of Mississippi to continue to fly that flag in the way that it was used and is still used like that.”

If the city votes to take down the state flag from municipal offices, those flags would then respectfully be placed in the Harrison County Library System to be displayed with other historical items.

The city council is expected to vote on this referendum at Tuesday’s meeting.

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