- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi voters chose to keep a Confederate battle emblem on the state flag in 2001, but that election did not equate to a universal embrace of the banner.

The flag has disappeared in recent years from some public buildings, particularly in majority-black areas, as local officials expressed concern that it represents division rather than unity.

The Mississippi flag has been folded in more places since last month, when the massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, prompted widespread discussion about displaying Old South symbols on public property. The man charged in the shootings had posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos posted online before what police say was a racially motivated attack.

One section of Mississippi law makes flying the state flag optional, not mandatory: “The state flag may be displayed from all public buildings from sunrise to sunset; however, the state flag may be displayed from all public buildings 24 hours a day if properly illuminated.”

A separate section of law says: “The flag of the State of Mississippi and the flag of the United States shall be displayed in close proximity to the school building at all times during the hours of daylight when the school is in session when the weather will permit without damage to the flag.” This section says the school board is responsible for providing the flags, but there’s no penalty if the flags aren’t flown.

Here’s a look at some developments:

- Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree on June 25 ordered the Mississippi flag taken down from most city buildings to show respect for those killed in Charleston.

- Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett ordered the state flag taken down from City Hall in early July. “We need a flag that unites and does not divide,” Luckett told The Associated Press.

- Petal aldermen voted unanimously July 7 to keep the flag aloft at city buildings. “As long as we are part of the state of Mississippi, we will fly that flag,” Mayor Hal Marx said, according to the Hattiesburg American (https://hatne.ws/1CK9Yfi ).

- The Magnolia City Council voted 3-0 July 7 to remove the flag from city buildings. Joe Cornacchione, an alderman absent during the vote, later said he wants to keep the flag flying because it represents the sacrifice southerners made who fought in the Civil War, according to the Enterprise-Journal (https://bit.ly/1CK7OMQ ).

“Are we going to take down the U.S. flag next?” Cornacchione said. “Are we going to replace it with a rainbow flag?”

Days after the council vote, protesters marched in Magnolia.

Mayor Anthony Witherspoon said of the flag: “It represents the fight to keep slavery. I think it’s ironic that the protesters were waving the actual Confederate battle flag, not the actual state flag at the rally.”

- The Grenada City Council voted 4-3 on July 13 to remove the state flag from city buildings.

- The Mississippi flag has not flown at Jackson City Hall for years. The City Council unanimously adopted a resolution July 14 calling for a new banner.

“The flag, in its present design, vehemently denotes a spirit of racial division, hatred and slavery ideology,” the resolution says. “The state of Mississippi will be better served by a new flag design representing inclusion of all people.”

- The Gulf Coast Business Council and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce in recent weeks have both endorsed removing the Confederate emblem from the state flag.

“It’s time for a change,” the business council chairman, Ron Peresich, told The Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/1CK8EsQ ). “It offends too many people.”

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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