- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 20, 2018

PONTOTOC, Miss. (AP) - Officials in one Mississippi city have voted to once again fly the Confederate-themed state flag, weeks after the mayor quietly furled it.

Pontotoc Mayor Bob Peeples recently told aldermen that he issued an executive order in January to remove the flag from City Hall. He said he did it to take political pressure off aldermen.

“I truly love this town. We deal with difficult issues and I appreciate the work the board does,” Peeples said. “We’re the only state in the country that flies a flag that is divisive among its citizens. A flag should rally people together, but this one divides us.”

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that aldermen voted 4-1 Monday to fly it again.

The Mississippi flag has included the Confederate battle emblem since 1894, and people who voted in a 2001 statewide election chose to keep it.

Critics say the flag is a racist reminder of slavery and segregation. Supporters say it represents history.

The flag and other Confederate symbols have come under increased scrutiny since 2015, when nine black worshippers were massacred in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. A white man who had posed in photos glorifying the rebel flag was sentenced to death in the fatal shootings, which authorities contend were racially motivated.

All eight of Mississippi’s public universities and several cities and counties have stopped flying the flag.

Pontotoc Alderman Rayburn Mapp said the mayor was wrong to remove the flag without asking the public. He also questioned Peeples‘ assertion that the flag hurts economic development.

“I’ve done business in Pontotoc for years and years, and 10 years ago numerous buildings in our industrial park were empty, but now it’s full,” Mapp said. “We’ve proudly been flying the state flag all these years, and I don’t feel the state flag had anything to do with our earlier troubles or prevented us from economic recovery.”

Alderwoman Lena Chewe voted against flying the flag again.

“You have to put yourself in the position of others sometime, and this flag reminds some people every day of a hurtful thing,” she said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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