CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Board of Aldermen voted 3-2 to remove the state flag from city hall on Tuesday night, joining a growing list of Mississippi cities and universities refusing to fly the state banner that carries the Confederate battle emblem.
“I think it’s a decision that was long overdue. I think that it respects the dignity of all the citizens of Cleveland,” said alderman Maurice Smith, who presented the motion to vote on removing the flag.
According to the Bolivar Commercial, Robert Sanders, Maurice Smith and Ted Campbell voted in favor of removing the flag. Paul Janoush and Kirkham Povall voted against it; Gary Gainspoletti and Danny Abraham were not at the meeting.
Mississippi Today left messages for Povall, Gainspoletti and mayor Billy Nowell seeking comment for this story.
Smith first presented the motion to remove the flag at the October meeting, but it was tabled until Tuesday night.
“I think there was some who wanted to table it again but I saw no reason to,” Smith said.
Smith also said he’s been thinking about making the push to remove the state flag from city hall for years. When several citizens recently approached him about wanting to have the flag taken down, he decided to move forward with his efforts.
“I was ready to vote (in October),” Smith said. “The flag is offensive to a lot of people and what it represents is not what Cleveland is about.”
In a statement posted on Facebook, State Rep. Abe Hudson praised the decision, writing:
“Last night (November 7th, 2017), the City of Cleveland, MS voted to no longer fly the Mississippi State Flag. A few weeks ago (September 27th, 2017), Bolivar County voted to no longer raise it at the Rosedale Courthouse or Cleveland Courthouse. I am really proud of Bolivar County, Cleveland, MS, and for those who voted to make this step forward.
Some would argue it’s too late, but I say its RIGHT ON TIME. State of Mississippi and Mississippi Legislature, it’s our turn!!!”
The decision to remove the flag comes three weeks after an open discussion hosted by Mississippi Humanities Council in Cleveland on the state flag.
To some, the Confederate emblem on the flag connotes white supremacy, racial terror and glorifies an antebellum era when cotton was king and slavery was acceptable.
Others see it as a representation of the South’s history that shouldn’t be completely removed from public spaces.
In July, Clarksdale municipal judge Carlos Moore had the state flag removed from his courtroom on his first day behind the bench.
“It was not going to be behind my back and for the court to see, the citizens to see,” he told Mississippi Today in a July interview. “I don’t stand for white supremacy at all and so it had to go.”
Moore has also filed suit against Gov. Phil Bryant over the flag, arguing it violates citizens’ 14th Amendment rights because the state flag is “one of racial hostility” and “the state’s continued expression of its message of racial disparagement” labels African-Americans as second-class citizens.
That case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The state’s public universities and several counties and large cities, including Biloxi, have also taken down the state flag.