THE Republican Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves has signed a bill to retire America’s last state flag to feature the Confederate battle flag.
The flag, which was first adopted in 1894, has red, white and blue stripes with the Confederate battle emblem in the top left corner.
The Mississippi state flag, with the Confederate symbol, is seen here flying outside the Capitol in Jackson on Thursday[/caption]
On Tuesday, Reeves signed the bill, the result of a fast referendum from the state’s Legislature which passed the bill on Sunday.
The bill was the result of weeks of protests across the nation following the death of Black man George Floyd, who died in police custody.
A commission will develop a new flag design without the Confederate emblem that includes the phrase “In God, We Trust”, and Mississippi voters will vote on the new design in November.
“This is not a political moment to me, but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together to be reconciled and to move on,” Reeves said before he signed the legislation.
Larry Eubanks, seen waving the state flag here, said he supports the current flag and hopes lawmakers would allow registered voters to vote on a proposed flag change[/caption]
“I know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag changed,” he continued, according to CNN.
“They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history – a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect.
“I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome.”
Reeves used several pens to sign the bill, AP reported.
As he completed the process, a cheer could be heard from people outside the Governor’s Mansion who were watching the livestream broadcast on their phones.
Reeves handed the pens to lawmakers and others who had worked on the issue.
Among the small group of dignitaries witnessing the bill signing were Reuben Anderson, who was the first African American justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, serving from 1985 to 1991; Willie Simmons, a current state Transportation Commissioner who is the first African American elected to that job; and Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of civil rights icons Medgar and Myrlie Evers.
In this June 6, 2020 photograph, a “Stennis Flag” is waved by protesters gathered at a rally and march in downtown Jackson, Miss., in response to police brutality nationwide including Mississippi[/caption]
The Mississippi State Capitol dome is visible in the distance as the flag of the state of Mississippi flies nearby[/caption]
The Senate voted 37-14 after the bill passed the House by a 91-23 vote – confirming an earlier vote from the House to suspend rules and introduce a bill to take down the state flag.
The flag of the Confederacy has long been a divisive symbol.
Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 statewide election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of Southern heritage.
But the red flag, with its blue cross and 13 white stars, marks the 13 states that fought to keep slavery in the US and has been used by white supremacists.
State Senator Derrick Simmons pushed for the “Mississippi of tomorrow,” prior to Sunday’s vote.
He said: “In the name of history I stand for my two sons, who are one and six years old, who should be educated in schools and be able to frequent businesses and express their black voices in public places that all fly a symbol of love not hate.”
A new flag, which would be voted on, will not allow the Confederate symbol and must have the words “In God We Trust.”
Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, a white man who has been supporting the flag change for five years, said: “How sweet it is to celebrate this on the Lords day.
“Many prayed to Him to bring us to this day. He has answered.”
The House first voted 85-34 on Saturday, winning a necessary two-thirds vote to advance the move, WJTV reported.
The Mississippi Clarion Ledger reported that after passing in the House, the resolution would head to the Senate — where it also required a two-thirds vote to pass.
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Mississippi’s annual legislative session is almost over, and it takes a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to consider a bill after the normal deadlines have passed.
Speaker Pro Tem Jason White said on the House floor: “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.”
“I agree with those people. I’m here today because it is simply the right thing to do.”