A federal lawsuit was filed Monday against Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant seeking to eliminate the state flag in its current form, which has the Confederate battle emblem on it, reports said. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Carlos Moore of Grenada, Mississippi, comes a week after attempts to remove Confederate imagery from Mississippi’s state flag were stopped in the statehouse.
Moore, a civil rights attorney, claimed in the lawsuit that the Confederate imagery instigates racial violence and breaches the 14th- Amendment protections of black residents in the country, the Washington Post reported Monday. In the lawsuit, Moore also asked the court to order Bryant to remove the flag from all government offices. Mississippi, where 30 percent of the population is black, is the only remaining state that still incorporates the Confederate battle flag into the state’s flag.
“Mississippi’s official state flag with the embedded Confederate battle flag is tantamount to hateful government speech that both has a discriminatory intent and disparate impact,” the lawsuit said, according to Washington Post, adding: “The current official state flag … encourages or incites private citizens to commit acts of racial violence.”
The lawsuit also said: “Plaintiff fears for his safety and the safety of other African-Americans because of the state sanctioned hate speech communicated through the current flag.”
According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), the lawsuit also said that the Confederate flag “has been shown” to have instigated racial violence and terror, and cited incidents of violence in South Carolina and Mississippi. “With each passing day, plaintiff and other African-American citizens are subjugated to second-class status by virtue of the official state flag bearing the confederate battle flag emblem flying high and proud on public property within the state of Mississippi. It is past time for this unconstitutional practice to end,” Moore wrote in the lawsuit, according to AP.
A spokesman for Bryant slammed the lawsuit and said it would drain out taxpayers' money. “This is a frivolous attempt to use the federal court system to usurp the will of the people,” Clay Chandler, the spokesman for Bryant, said, according to AP, adding: “The governor hopes Attorney General Jim Hood will seek attorneys' fees to reimburse taxpayers the cost of defending against this needless drain on state resources.”
The Washington Post report added that 12 different bills proposing to change the flag were introduced by several lawmakers, but each of them was stalled in committees and none of them made it to the floor before the deadline passed last Tuesday.
“We thought the legislature would go ahead and take the flag down,” Moore reportedly said Monday in an interview. He also said that they had talked to several officials, including those at the local chapters of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Bar Association, but the only option seemed to be to challenge the flag in court.
Moore’s lawsuit cites the shootings in Charleston last year and the bombing in Mississippi’s Wal-Mart store on Nov. 3, 2015, when a white man said he carried out the bombing because the store stopped selling Confederate flags. The lawsuit also cited the deaths of two black men — Otis Byrd and Frederick Jermaine Carter— who were found hanged last year and in 2010 respectively, the Washington Post reported. Although the authorities called their deaths suicides, protestors claimed both men could have been lynched.
“We have specific incidents we’re going to point to in order to say that this flag is promoting racial violence,” Moore said, adding: “And we believe that the results of our lawsuit could be different than those in the past.”