Protesters at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) were kicked off campus Sunday by a police officer who incorrectly told them the Mississippi state flag was prohibited on campus.
Mississippi’s state flag includes the Confederate battle flag in the top left corner, which has attracted fierce opposition, especially since the anti-Confederate backlash that occurred after the Charleston church shooting last summer.
That backlash has even infiltrated the state’s own institutions. Last fall, USM President Rodney Bennett announced that the state flag would no longer fly on any of the school’s campuses, and the University of Mississippi made the same move.
Now, critics of that move find themselves booted off campus.
A video posted to YouTube shows several protesters on campus carrying state flags and then questioned by a police officer. The conversation cannot be heard clearly, but at the end of the video one of the men complains in astonishment that they “can’t have a Mississippi flag.”
In an account given later to local WDAM news, the protesters said they were informed the flag was banned from USM’s campus, and told they had to leave. (RELATED: Southern Baptists Repudiate Confederate Flag)
“I said, ‘the state flag has to come down?’ and he said, ‘yes per orders of Doctor Bennett that state flags are not allowed on the campus,'” Kimberly Craven told WDAM. The protesters say they have visited USM every Sunday in order to support the state flag.
USM has responded to the incident by saying the officer’s orders were a mistake, and that the flag is still allowed on campus.
“The University of Southern Mississippi supports the right to lawfully and peacefully protest on or in front of the Hattiesburg campus with regard to the state flag. Any information leading individuals to believe otherwise is inaccurate,” the school said in a statement.
The protesters say they are thinking of a lawsuit based on the violation of their First Amendment rights because they were improperly kicked off campus.
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