Ole Miss removes Mississippi flag with Confederate emblem

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, October 27, 2015

OXFORD, Miss. — The University of Mississippi quietly pulled down the state flag on Monday, deciding that the 121-year-old banner’s Confederate battle emblem sends a harmful message in this age of diversity.

Acting under the order of Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks, three campus police officers furled the flag before most students were awake, taking it down from a circle of honor between the white-columned administration building and a marble statue of a saluting Confederate soldier.

A group of university leaders met Sunday night and agreed to take it down, days after the student and faculty senates urged its removal from the Oxford campus, a bastion for Southern elites since its founding in 1848.

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“Because the flag remains Mississippi’s official banner, this was a hard decision. I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued,” Stocks said in a statement.

The banner will be put on display in the university’s archives, Stocks told The Associated Press.

The flag had flown for years in the Lyceum circle, where deadly white riots broke out in 1962, when James Meredith enrolled as the university’s first black student, under a federal court order and with the protection of U.S. marshals.

A half-century later, federal forces were again keeping close watch on the Ku Klux Klan as an Oct. 16 remove-the-flag rally by the campus chapter of the NAACP proved to be the catalyst for change.

Two Klan members who protested Thursday’s faculty senate vote were arrested on state weapons charges after campus police found shotguns and a “Black Lives Don’t Matter” sign in their pickup truck, according to an FBI agent’s sworn statement. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, Chad Lamar, said each man now faces a federal charge of possessing a firearm in a school zone. Federal court records show one of the guns was loaded. At least one of the men had also protested the NAACP rally.

Today’s students forced the flag issue as the governor and most state lawmakers seek re-election on Nov. 3, and many politicians have avoided staking positions. Not so Chris McDaniel, a state senator who lost a contentious Republican primary to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014, and insisted that “Ole Miss should fly it, as long as they remain a publicly funded university.”

“Universities are supposed to be marketplaces of ideas, not cocoons designed for coddling the feelings of the perpetually offended,” the tea party favorite posted Monday on his Facebook page.

There was no sign of protest on campus Monday.

“It needed to be removed,” said Ellie Bond, an international studies major from Flowood, Mississippi, who wore a T-shirt with a flag that preceded Mississippi’s current banner, featuring a magnolia tree rather than the battle flag.