Mayor Johnny Magee became very emotional as he signed an executive order to remove the state’s flag from outside Laurel City Hall and other city properties.
The order signed by Mayor Johnny Magee reads that “there comes a point in time in the annals of history when it becomes necessary to re-define who we are and what a collection of people represent” and the state’s flag — which includes the Confederate battle flag — “should be a unifying image of our ideals and values”.
Laurel’s move follows renewed debate over the future of the state’s flag in the wake of global demonstrations against racial injustice, as demonstrators seek the removals of symbols of white supremacy, including Confederate-era statues and the battle flag.
Several powerful organizations in the state have also pressured Governor Tate Reeves and lawmakers to swiftly adopt a new flag. In his order, Mayor Magee wrote that flags “have themselves grown to exemplify the threads of the fabric that bind the very fabric of the societies they represent and have served as a means to unify, rallying the spirit and passion of the citizens to one voice and purpose of the state, all of which again demonstrates the significance given to these flying emblems.”
The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, the state’s largest religious congregation with more than 500,000 members and 2,100 churches, has called for a “change to the current flag in order to mitigate the hurt that its symbolism entails.”
Walmart, which has 65 stores and employs more than 20,000 people in the state, also announced it will no longer fly the flag at its stores.
The NCAA announced that it will not host major events in the state until the Confederate flag is removed. Several athletes have refused to play in protest.
Coaches from Mississippi’s public universities joined the state’s Legislative Black Caucus and black ministers from across the state at the capital of Jackson on Thursday to pressure lawmakers to change the state flag.
Following the murders of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, North Carolina by a white supremacist in 2014, Mississippi’s public universities and several jurisdictions stopped flying the flag.
The flags in Laurel will be retired to a local library as part of a collection of historic documents and artefacts.