Mississippi lawmakers vote to remove Confederate emblem from state flag

Both houses of the legislature voted to remove the symbol and appoint a panel to design a new flag. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Mississippi lawmakers have voted to remove a symbol of the pro-slavery Confederacy from the Deep South state's flag, the latest symbol of racism to come down amid outrage at the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minnesota.

Both houses of the legislature voted this weekend to remove the symbol and appoint a panel to design a new flag, according to media reports. The state's Republican Governor, Tate Reeves, said on Saturday (June 27) that he would sign the bill if the legislature passed it.

"We are better today than we were yesterday," Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, who authored the bill that passed on Sunday (June 28), told the non-profit news organisation Mississippi Today.

"Today, the future has taken root in the present. Today, we and the rest of the nation can look on our state with new eyes, with pride and hope."

In the 19th century, Southern states, faced with the prospect of having to give up slavery, formed the Confederacy and broke away from the United States, leading to the 1861-1865 Civil War.

Symbols of the failed rebellion were erected throughout the South during the years of racial segregation and violence known as Jim Crow, and despite years of progress and civil rights for Black Americans, many states resisted removing them.

But after video showing a white officer fatally pressing his knee to Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes provoked outrage that sent tens of thousands of Americans of all ethic backgrounds into the streets for weeks of protests, Confederate symbols have been coming down.

"The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it's time to end it," Reeves posted Saturday on Facebook. "If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it."

Walmart last Tuesday (June 23) said it would no longer display the flag in its stores, consistent with its decision to not sell merchandise with the Confederate flag from stores and online sites.

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