TUPELO, Miss. — The Mississippi state flag with the Confederate battle emblem began flying this week outside a police building in a predominantly black neighborhood.
The Tupelo police headquarters, which opened in the neighborhood in December 2016, has three flagpoles outside. One flies the American flag. One flies a city flag. From the time the building opened, the other pole flew a state bicentennial banner, which does not include the Confederate symbol that critics see as racist.
The city had ordered that all municipal offices fly the bicentennial banner from late 2016 until Dec. 10, 2017, the 200th anniversary of Mississippi becoming the 20th state in the Union. News outlets report that the state flag replaced the bicentennial banner outside the police department this week.
The two black members of Tupelo City Council, Nettie Davis and Willie Jennings, oppose the state flag. They told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal they are disappointed about not receiving advance notice that it would be flown.
“I want us to be a city for all people, not just any one color,” Jennings said. “We need to find a better way of working together.”
The city’s chief operations officer, Don Lewis, said he suggested to the mayor that the city wait until after Christmas and New Year’s to start flying the state flag because he knew some residents would be unhappy to see it.
“We just wanted the holiday season to be peaceful and calm,” Lewis said.
Several Mississippi cities and counties and all eight of the state’s public universities have stopped flying the state flag because critics say the Confederate symbol does not properly represent a state with a 38 percent black population. Many have removed the flag since the June 2015 slayings of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white man who had posed for photos with the rebel flag.
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com