Is Mississippi’s Confederate battle emblem on flag in legal jeopardy?

Published 5:38 pm Friday, September 9, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — An attorney says he’s not surrendering his legal battle to erase the Confederate battle emblem from the Mississippi flag.

Carlos Moore said Friday that he will file a notice next week asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to revive his lawsuit challenging the banner.

Moore sued the state six months ago, arguing that the rebel X that’s been on Mississippi’s flag since 1894 is an unconstitutional vestige of slavery that creates a hostile environment for him and other African-Americans.

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U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed the suit Thursday, saying Moore failed to show a “cognizable legal injury.”

Reeves considered pretrial arguments, and Moore said he will ask the appeals court to require Reeves to hold a full trial and hear testimony.

“I should have been allowed to proceed to the trial on merits,” Moore said Friday.

The upper left corner of the Mississippi flag has the Confederate battle emblem — a red field topped by a blue X dotted with 13 white stars. Voters chose to keep the banner in a 2001 referendum, and it’s the last state flag in the nation to prominently feature the emblem.

Like other Confederate symbols, the Mississippi flag has come under increased scrutiny since the June 2015 killings of black worshippers in South Carolina. The white man charged in that case had posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos published online. Several cities and counties and seven of Mississippi’s eight public universities have stopped flying the state flag.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement that he’s pleased Reeves dismissed the lawsuit. In the past, Bryant has said he respects the outcome of the 2001 flag election but would be open to another referendum.

“What the state flag is or is not should be decided by Mississippi voters,” Bryant said Thursday.

Flag supporters and opponents are circulating petitions seeking another statewide vote on the symbol, and a “heritage keepers” rally in support of the flag is planned for Saturday outside the state Capitol.

Although Reeves dismissed the lawsuit, he used his 32-page ruling to address an argument some flag supporters make outside the courtroom, that there is no connection between the slavery and the Confederate battle emblem. The judge cited Mississippi’s 1861 secession declaration, which said: “‘Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.'”