GULFPORT, Miss. — The city of Gulfport, Mississippi, is removing the state flag at all city-owned buildings and facilities because it includes the Confederate battle flag.
The city council unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday urging the Mississippi Legislature to “respectfully retire” the flag that has flown over the state since 1894.
The resolution acknowledged that the flag — with its 13 white stars on a blue X with a red background — means different things to different people, but said for many it is “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.”
It said the flag does not represent the ideals and principles of the state or the city. Gulfport is the second-largest city in Mississippi, with a population estimated at 71,705, according to the US Census Bureau.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes’ office posted video of the flag being taken down at City Hall on its Facebook page. It was replaced with the Magnolia flag, which was adopted as Mississippi’s first official flag in 1861 when the state seceded from the United States to join the Confederacy.
Mississippi is the only state that still includes the symbol in its flag. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is discussing changing the flag and cities around the United States are wrestling with how to deal with Confederate statues and other symbols.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves told reporters last week that he wouldn’t support changing the flag unless the people of Mississippi voted for it.
In 2001, 65% of Mississippi residents voted to keep the flag.
Wallace Mason, the only Gulfport resident to speak in favor of keeping the flag at Tuesday’s meeting, told the council that the city shouldn’t overturn the will of the people.
“It’s like spitting in the face of the voters who won,” he said. “I’m against racism, but I’m also for this flag and it doesn’t stand for racism.”
Most of the residents who spoke argued that the flag symbolized racism, segregation, lynchings and other violence against black people.
“If there’s nothing wrong with the flag, why is it every time a racist act, an aggressive act is done, that flag is there?” asked John Davis. He said the flag was an insult to anyone who is not white.
Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines, the council’s longest-serving member, said nobody stood up to protect the flag’s heritage when bigots used the flag to spread hatred.
“That flag, each time I see it, it’s harm because I have a mom that’s 94 and she remembers. I have a great aunt that’s 100 and she remembers,” said Holmes-Hines, who is black.
Gulfport’s resolution says that any state flags that have been used in the city will be retired to the public library or other offices so they can be included in historical displays.