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Oxford Removes Mississippi Flag from City Property

Mississippi Fag Flys On North Sde of Courthouse Lawn
The Mississippi state flag has been removed from Oxford City Hall, but currently still flies on the north side of the Lafayette County Courthouse lawn.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to remove the state flag from its city buildings during a regular meeting Tuesday night. The decision was met with applause from a packed room of citizens, several who openly addressed the board with their opinions on the potential removal.

Citizens were passionate about their stance, but civil. Those in support of removing the flag from city property explained how it does not represent unity and diversity throughout the state.

Ole Miss student Sierra Mannie, an African American, said that the flag should be removed because it does not positively reflect the heritage of all Mississippians.

“I’ve heard conversations about ancestry and grandfathers, [but when] I think about the flag, I wonder, why don’t my grandparents matter?” she said. The city of Oxford will flood in the next couple of weeks to watch young black men throw a ball back and forth and spend all this money to watch these young black men play men play, but if the city of Oxford keeps the flag up, as it stands, it’s like a slap in the face.” She went on to explain that the flag does not protect the heritage that belongs to African Americans. “I have every right to look at this place and want a symbol for it that does not stand for this shame – this evil – that was slavery.”

John Maynard, president of the Economic Development Foundation, explained how difficult it is for economic developers statewide to attract businesses to Mississippi due to the perceptions and stereotypes associated with the state. The flag, he explained, does not help economic developers “sell” Mississippi to potential business clients. “The flag having the stars and bars, being adopted by hate groups, and being associated with evil, had become our ‘neck tattoo,” he said. “It’s the tattoo that gets in our way of making sales to companies who want to move to Mississippi.”

Oxford resident Joseph Marshall, who supports keeping the flag on city property, explained that removing it from city municipalities would be disrespectful to Mississippi’s legal process.

“This is no small matter,” he said. “As a municipality of the state of Mississippi, the city of Oxford, if it chooses to remove the state flag, is not just showing disrespect, but is showing contempt for the political and legal process that establishes and changes public policy in this state.”

Marshall went on to explain that removing the flag from city property would not generate good will, unity or reconciliation, and in his opinion, would not reap the results the city is looking for. “To take this action is a grave disrespectful measure for a municipality to take in relation to our state,” he said.

Peter Wirth, English professor at The University of Mississippi, suggested that the city keep the flag, but change their attitude about what it represents. “I’m in favor of keeping the current flag although I understand the arguments against it,” he said. When Mississippi voted on whether or not to change the flag 14 years ago, Wirth said he saw a bumper stick that summed up his beliefs. “It said keep the flag, change the heart,” he said. “There are some really serious and bad racial issues in the country today. I don’t think the gesture of getting rid of the flag will really address those issues.”

City Attorney Pope Mallette told the board that there is no state statute that requires a city to fly or not fly a flag.

“There is some leeway for the board’s decision, whether it be to seek legislative change or to make some changes in the city about how you must or must not fly the flag,” he said.

Currently, there is only a statute that requires schools to fly the state and national flag.

Mayor Pat Patterson had previously authorized and requested that the Magnolia Flag be displayed on the Oxford Square next to City Hall. He, along with the board, supported a motion to adopt a resolution to send to the Mississippi governor and statel legislature in favor of changing the state flag entirely. “I don’t think we’re dishonoring anybody to get a flag that everybody can be proud of,” he said. “I don’t think it dishonors anybody or anything. That’s how I feel about it.”

The resolution outlines conflicts between the flag’s symbolism and the city’s values, and asks the state government to replace the current flag with one that is more unifying to all Mississippians.

An excerpt from the letter reads “Be it resolved that we, the governing authority of the city of Oxford, Mississippi, do hereby request that the governor and legislature of the state of Mississippi take action to remove the current state flag and replace it with a new flag that represents the great spirit and garners the respect of all Mississippi citizens. “

Alderman Robyn Tannehill initiated the motion to adopt the resolution, stating that simply removing the state flag from city property was not making enough of a statement. “One of the things I’ve debated internally in regards to taking the flag down [is that] it’s a gesture at the city level because we don’t make the state law.” She added that adopting the resolution is something that the board can do immediately to send a real message to the governor and legislators stating that the city of Oxford wants the flag changed. I want something that’s not just a gesture,” she said. “And although I’m not opposed to taking the flag down, it will still be Mississippi’s state flag tomorrow. We want [the flag] to represent all of us.”

Beth Harmon is editor for HottyToddy.com. Email her at beth.harmon@hottytoddy.com

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