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Mississippi passes bill to remove Confederate battle emblem from state flag

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The Mississippi state House and Senate have voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag after more than 120 years.

The bill passed the House on Sunday by a vote of 91-23, then passed the Senate with a 37-14 vote.

Democratic state Sen. Derrick Simmons urged lawmakers to vote for the "Mississippi of tomorrow." 

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Source: Bill Colgin/Getty Images

"In the name of history, I stand for my two sons, who are 1 and 6 years old, who should be educated in schools and be able to frequent businesses and express their Black voices in public places that all fly a symbol of love, not hate," he added.

Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel had attempted to take the matter to a public vote, but this amendment failed.

"We've been told this is a moment of unity," McDaniel said. "I checked social media last night, and I didn't see very much unity. They don't feel like they have a voice in a really interesting time in our country's history." 

The bill calls for a commission that will be in charge of a new flag design. The redesign will remove the Confederate flag but keep the symbol "In God We Trust." It will then be placed on the November ballot. If the new design is rejected, the commission will try again.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves had previously said that he would sign the bill if it passed. 

"The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag," Gov. Reeves wrote on Twitter. "The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it. If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it."

Mayor Johnny Magee made national headlines when he signed an executive order to remove the state's flag from outside Laurel City Hall and other city properties.

The Black mayor's order stated that "there comes a point in time in the annals of history when it becomes necessary to re-define who we are and what a collection of people represent." He said that the state's flag "should be a unifying image of our ideals and values."

"I don't apologize for being emotional," Mayor Magee said as he broke into tears at a press conference. "I have lived through some things with this flag and as they told [Martin Luther King Jr] to wait. Time for waiting is over."

The National Collegiate Athletic Association had previously threatened to bar the state from hosting championship games until the symbol was removed.

NCAA President Mark Emmert applauded the move in a statement, saying: "It has too long served as a symbol of oppression, racism, and injustice. We welcome this important move by state lawmakers to remove the symbol from prominence in the state, which will also open the opportunity to host NCAA championships after the recently expanded championship policy.” 

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