Hundreds rally against Confederate sign on Mississippi flag

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Hundreds Rally for Confederate Flag


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Civil-rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams, Mississippi-born rapper David Banner and a prominent South Carolina lawmaker are calling on Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag.

About 400 people took part in a change-the-flag rally Sunday outside the Mississippi Capitol. No alternative design was proposed, but rally leaders said the flag is racially divisive. Three men holding large flags with various Confederate emblems watched the rally from a distance across the Capitol lawn.

The emblem — a blue X with 13 white stars, over a red field — has been on Mississippi's flag since 1894, and voters chose to keep it in 2001. But the massacre of nine black worshippers in June at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, has renewed the debate about the public display of Confederate symbols.

Images of the Confederate flag being removed from the South Carolina Capitol:

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Confederate flag taken down in SC
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Hundreds rally against Confederate sign on Mississippi flag
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia, S.C., Friday, July 10, 2015, ending its 54-year presence there. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
People cheer as an honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to the cheers of thousands on Friday, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol lowers the Confederate battle flag as it is removed from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to the cheers of thousands on Friday, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An honor guard member from the South Carolina Highway Patrol hands the Confederate battle flag that flew in front of the Statehouse to the curator of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum after it was taken down Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley hugs Rev. Norvel Goff, interim pastor at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, before an honor guard from the South Carolina Highway Patrol removed the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds, Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A crowd cheers after the Confederate 'Stars and Bars' flag was lowered from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Republican Governor Nikki Haley presided over the event after signing historic legislation to remove the flag the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A woman waves a sign as she waits for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from in front of the South Carolina Statehouse, Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill into law Thursday requiring the flag to be removed. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A girl watches from a crowd to see the Confederate 'Stars and Bars' flag lowered from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Republican Governor Nikki Haley presided over the event after signing historic legislation to remove the flag the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A crowd celebrates after a South Carolina honor guard lowers the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Republican Governor Nikki Haley presided over the event after signing the historic legislation to remove the flag the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia, S.C., Friday, July 10, 2015, ending its 54-year presence there. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A crowd cheers as a South Carolina honor guard lowers the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Republican Governor Nikki Haley presided over the event after signing the historic legislation to remove the flag the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to the cheers of thousands on Friday, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9: The Confederate battle flag flies on its last full day at the South Carolina state house July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill removing the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds on Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 09: Confederate flag supporters stand outside the as 'Stars and Bars' flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse on its last evening on July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds Friday morning. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 09: People hold the American flag as the Confederate 'Stars and Bars' flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse on its last evening on July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds Friday morning. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9: Supporters celebrate after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signs a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate on the flag was reignited three weeks ago after the mass murder at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill into law as former South Carolina governors and officials look on Thursday, July 9, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. The law enables the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds more than 50 years after the rebel banner was raised to protest the civil rights movement. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9: State Reps. John King (L) and Cezar McKnight celebrate after the House approved a senate bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Lawmakers debated for more than 13 hours before approving the bill early Thursday morning. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signs a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate on the flag was reignited three weeks ago after the mass murder at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Roger Rees attends the opening night of 'The Real Thing' on Broadway at American Airlines Theatre on October 30, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
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Police said the mass shooting in Charleston was racially motivated, and the suspect had previously posed for photos with the rebel flag.

Republican state Rep. Jenny Horne of South Carolina said Sunday that Mississippi is hurting its own economy by keeping the battle emblem on the state flag.

"It is a new South. The economic development opportunities that Mississippi is missing out on — you don't even know it, but it's costing all citizens jobs," said Horne, who gave an impassioned speech in July as South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove a Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia.

Horne on Sunday wore a lapel pin with a photo of her friend and colleague, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was the minister of Emmanuel AME Church and was among those killed June 17. Horne said South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its place of prominence because of tragedy. She said she's "cautiously optimistic" that Mississippi will do the right thing and change its flag.

Critics say the Mississippi flag is a divisive reminder of slavery and segregation and doesn't represent a state where 38 percent of the 2.9 million residents are black. Supporters say they see the Confederate emblem as a symbol of history and heritage.

Evers-Williams was national chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998 and is the widow of Medgar Evers, the Mississippi NAACP leader who was assassinated outside their family's Jackson home in 1963. At the rally Sunday, she noted that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had distanced himself from Confederate symbols after the South lost the Civil War.

"If a former Confederate general recognizes the divisiveness of a symbol of disunity, we must do so, also," Evers-Williams said.

Banner said Mississippi hurts itself by failing to fully recognize its troubled history, and flying a state flag with the Confederate battle emblem is an insult.

"What was the Civil War fought over?" Banner said. "Be honest. Slavery."

Despite widespread discussion of the flag in recent months, including rallies by people supporting it, there has been little movement to make a change. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves say if the issue is reconsidered, it should be done by voters rather than by legislators. Some prominent politicians, including the Republican speaker of the state House and both Republican U.S. senators, said after Charleston that Mississippi should adopt a different flag that could unify the state.

A Jackson resident, Sharon Brown, said Sunday that she will start gathering signatures soon for an initiative she hopes to put on the 2018 statewide ballot. Her proposal would remove all Confederate references from the flag.

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