Mississippi is removing an image of the Confederate battle flag from its state flag amid outcry against Confederate symbols on public property.
State Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, signed legislation on Tuesday ordering the “prompt, dignified, and respectful” removal of the state flag bearing the rebel symbol from all state property within 15 days, according to Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger.
“Whether you are proud of this step or angry with us over the process, I want you to know that I love you,” Reeves said at the signing ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion. “I am praying for you.”
Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, and House Speaker Philip Gunn will select a nine-member commission to decide on a new design for the flag, which must contain the words “In God We Trust.” Voters will approve or reject the design by referendum in November. If approved, the new flag will be ratified and flown next year. If not, the commission will meet again and decide on a new design.
Reeves signed the bill after both chambers of the GOP-controlled state legislature voted overwhelmingly for the legislation. On Sunday, the House voted 91-23 followed by a Senate vote of 37-14 to send the bill to Reeves’ desk.
“I think the Mississippi Senate and me personally, we want Mississippi to have a heart and a soul, and today she had one,” Hosemann said after the vote. “It was just time. People several weeks ago started talking about this and the momentum built and the momentum built … it was bipartisan, and it was just time. It was just time.”
The now-retired version of the flag has represented the state since its adoption in 1894. It’s unclear how popular the stars-and-bars print of the flag is today. In 2001, 64% of voters in the state cast ballots to leave it unchanged.
“I know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag change,” Reeves said after signing the bill. “They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history — a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect. I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome.”
Protests across the country in recent weeks have devolved into violent riots with participants not only defacing and toppling statues of the Confederacy, but of American heroes as well, such as George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant. In California, rioters attacked statues of the Catholic saint, Junipero Serra.
Depictions of Christopher Columbus have been targeted, toppled, and removed. On Wednesday, city crews in Columbus, Ohio, which is named after the 15th century explorer, removed a statue of Columbus from its place outside of City Hall. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther had announced the move last month, saying the “statue represents patriarchy, oppression and divisiveness,” according to the New York Post.
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