Gov. Phil Bryant said the state missed a good opportunity to have a ballot referendum on changing the state flag this November.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
JACKSON Talk of changing the Mississippi flag was non-existent on the Neshoba County Fair stage last week, but speaking to reporters afterward, Gov. Phil Bryant said Mississippians missed "a really good opportunity" to vote on changing the state flag this November.
"I think this November would have been a great opportunity (for people to vote on the state flag); we would have had more people turning out than almost any election," Bryant told reporters last Thursday.
Bryant said he thought some dynamics are changing and that those voices need to be heard—although he did not elaborate on which voices those are. "I'm sorry that we don't have it on the ballot, and the people's voices won't be heard," Bryant said.
Lawmakers introduced bills in the House and the Senate this past legislative session to keep and to change the current state flag, but none made it out of committee. There are ballot initiatives filed with the Secretary of State's office to both keep the current state flag and to remove all symbols of the Confederacy from the state flag permanently. The governor attracted national attention after he declared April Confederate Heritage Month, a story the Jackson Free Press originally reported.
Philadelphia, Pa., city leaders took the Mississippi state flag down at the Democratic National Convention last week after protesters marched down Broad Street and sat in the roadway in protest; all 50 states' flags were displayed on Broad Street as a "so-called Avenue of the States," the Associated Press reported. Gov. Bryant said he was disappointed that the flag was removed.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi applauded the removal of the state flag at the DNC.
"I was very happy to hear that the City of Philadelphia has decided to remove Mississippi's state flag from its Broad Street display and another display near the DNC events," Thompson said in a press release. "And I appreciate and commend the efforts of the group of 50 Bernie Sanders supporters who reportedly sat down in a roadway to protest the display."
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, who was vocal about changing the state flag in his 2015 Neshoba County Fair speech, did not address the flag on stage this year. Gunn told the Jackson Free Press last Thursday that his opinion hasn't changed on the flag issue, but he thinks the Legislature would be a better venue to change it.
"Whether or not that's doable, like I've said before, it takes 62 votes to do anything," Gunn said. "I think the Legislature doing it would be better for the state, but that's just one man's opinion."
Read more about the Mississippi state flag debate at jfp.ms/confeds. Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @arielle_amara.