Mississippi lawmakers have announced their plan to propose legislation to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag, which has flown over most of the state’s government buildings since 1894.
The move comes in the wake of last week’s shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. where nine people were killed.
According to the Guardian, Mississippi state Sen. Kenny Jones said he and others would consider pre-filing a bill to change the flag in order to gauge support ahead of the next legislative session in January.
“I think it’s time for the whole south, with all the progressive individuals that we have, to start having a dialogue where we put out the right message that goes out to the rest of the nation,” said Jones, a Democrat who is chairman of the state’s legislative black caucus.
This is not the first time the state has questioned the emblem on the flag. In 2001, two-thirds of the population voted for it to stay.
One older resident, Shelby Patterson told The New York Times, “I don’t see any reason to change it. The flag they want — it’s got no sentimental value to nobody.”
Following the referendum, Mississippi became the only state to include the Confederate battle emblem in its flag, the Guardian reports. Once again, the state is questioning its decision to use the symbol as its official banner.
On Monday, S.C. Governor Nikki Haley called for the removal of the flag from the state capitol grounds, claiming she would call an emergency session over the summer if the issue is not addressed. (RELATED: Gov. Nikki Haley: ‘It’s Time To Move The Flag From The Capitol Grounds’)
The Republican speaker of the house, Philip Gunn, was one of the first elected officials in Mississippi to publicly call for the removal of the Confederate battle flag.
Gunn told the Clarion-Ledger, “We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us. As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offence that needs to be removed.”
As a motivator, Jennifer Gunter posted an online petition on Saturday. Thus far, the moveon.org petition has amassed more than 8,000 signatures.
Gunter said, “I am encouraged, but I do know that the problem is bigger than a flag. But I think it would be a very good gesture of unity in the wake of the tragedy.”
One of the first to sign the petition was Oxford restaurateur, John Currence, according to the Clarion-Ledger. He said, “What’s ironic more than anything else is that this simple act would be an enormous change for the state.”
In the same manner, Frank Figgers, vice president of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement group said, “It would remove one more symbol of the inequity that exists.”
Mississippi is one of many states in the process of removing confederate symbols. Along with South Carolina, states such as Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia have started removing statues, license plates, and any other figures emblematic of confederate thinking.
While many have already voiced their approval of the removal of the flag, some are questioning the motivation for change.
Senator Melanie Sojourner wrote on her Facebook page criticizing Mitt Romney’s approval of the proposal.
She said, “The flag was no more the ‘source’ of horrible acts against mankind than a gun is the ‘source’ of someone’s death. The ‘source’ is the hatred and evil that resides in the hearts of some who live and have lived among us.”
Sojourner continued, “We all have a responsibility to make certain that it is the ‘source’ we address and not place blame on something that alone could do no harm. Simply placing blame on something that some see as a symbol only perpetuates the problem.”