After more than 90 minutes of debate, the University of Mississippi student senators voted Tuesday night to remove the state flag, whose design incorporates the Confederate battle flag, from campus grounds, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
The resolution passed with a 33-15 vote and one abstention, at a school whose athletes are known as the Ole Miss Rebels and whose mascot, the Colonel Reb, was replaced by the Rebel Black Bear in 2010.
Once the resolution is signed, school administrators will still have to decide to take down the flag. Ole Miss could join three other public state universities — Alcorn State University, Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University — who do not fly the state flag.
“It’s just overwhelming to know that the voices of students that are affected by this image, that feel excluded by this image, that are hurt by the symbol, that their voices were heard,” student senator Allen Coon told the Clarion-Ledger after the vote. “It means that we truly are taking steps toward progress, that we care about change, that we care about students and that we respect difference.”
Coon co-authored the measure with the support of other student organizations, including the school’s NAACP chapter. It also urged the Mississippi legislature to pursue a new state flag.
Last month, Coon said in a statement that after white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in June, “our nation has had to reconcile with symbols of oppression.” He adds that Mississippi’s state flag is the only one in the U.S. that uses the Confederate battle flag’s saltire.
On Friday, an NAACP-sponsored rally supporting the removal of the flag faced around 10 counter-protesters, including members from the Ku Klux Klan’s International Keystone Knights and pro-secessionists The League of the South.
Scenes from Friday’s flag removal rally. Video by Clara Turnage/The Clarion-Ledger
The demonstration lasted about 30 minutes before police escorted the dozens of students off campus, The Clarion-Ledger reported.
Despite a national response since June’s church shooting to reconsider the Confederate flag’s placement in various public spaces, there has been little movement among Mississippi lawmakers to change the state flag’s design.