Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn is pushing for the Confederate portion of his state’s flag to be removed in the wake of the racially-motivated massacre in South Carolina last week.
Gunn’s call for the removal of the emblem is reportedly the first time a Republican elected official in Mississippi has publicly supported said removal.
“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn said in a Facebook post on Monday. “As a Christian, I believe our state's flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi's flag."
Democrat officials in the state agreed with Gunn, including state Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones.
“We should be constantly re-examining these types of stereotypes that label our state for what it used to be a long time ago,” he said.
Not every leader in the state agrees to the removal, however. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant objected to the legislature overruling the electorate, which voted in 2001 in a ballot measure to keep the emblem intact.
“A vast majority of Mississippians voted to keep the state's flag,” Bryant said in a statement on Monday. “I don't believe the Mississippi Legislature will act to supersede the will of the people on this issue."
State Sen. Jones, chairman of the state legislature's black caucus, countered Bryant's statement, saying: "We believe the state is more progressive (than it was in 2001). We don't want to step on the historical aspect of it, but it's so offensive to so many people. That flag as a Representation of the state has no right to be here."
Jones added that it is "possible" changing the flag will come up in the next legislative session, which starts in January.
"We're looking at it very seriously," he stated.
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