January 10, 2018 10:10:53 AM
TUPELO -- The Confederate-themed Mississippi flag is being removed from display outside a city's police building.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton issued an executive order Tuesday taking down the flag, which includes a Confederate battle emblem, about a week after it started flying.
Three flagpoles stand outside the police building in a predominantly black neighborhood. From the time the building opened in late 2016, one pole flew a state bicentennial banner, which does not include the Confederate symbol that critics see as racist.
The bicentennial was in 2017. With the beginning of a new year, the state flag last week replaced the bicentennial banner outside the police headquarters. The two African-American members of the city council oppose the state flag.
Mississippi's population is about 38 percent black, and Shelton, a white Democrat, said the flag "is not representative of all of the people of the state."
Shelton said he will ask the Republican-majority Tupelo City Council to consider a resolution asking state lawmakers to change the flag. Legislators in recent years have not acted on bills that would either remove the Confederate emblem from the flag or financially punish universities that don't fly it.
The Confederate symbol has been on the Mississippi flag since 1894, and voters chose to keep it in a 2001 election. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said that if the flag design is to be reconsidered, it should be done in another statewide election and not by a vote of the Legislature.
Several Mississippi cities and counties and all eight of the state's public universities have stopped flying the state flag because critics say the Confederate symbol does not properly represent a diverse state. Many have removed the flag since the June 2015 slayings of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white man who had posed for photos with the rebel flag.
The Tupelo city flag is replacing the Mississippi flag outside the police building. The other two poles continue to fly the American flag and the police department flag.
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