Some Mississippi residents are seeking to prohibit the state's flag from being displayed in the town of Ocean Springs, arguing in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that it is "racially demeaning and hostile."
The federal lawsuit argues that the Mississippi state flag, which contains the Confederate battle emblem within it, signals to African-American people that they are not welcome in the city, The Associated Press reported.
"Ocean Springs' display of the Mississippi state flag is intended to — and does — send a message to its African-American citizens that they are second class citizens and are not welcome in Ocean Springs," the lawsuit reads. "It also sends a message to African-Americans who might consider living or visiting the city that they too are not welcome and it deters them from moving into the city or visiting the city for both social and commercial purposes."
The lawsuit also alleges that flying the flag amounts to a violation of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in buying or renting a dwelling because it signals that white people are preferred in Ocean Springs, the AP reported.
The lawsuit does not mention changing the flag statewide, but one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Carlos Moore, previously sued unsuccessfully in 2016 to have the Mississippi flag declared unconstitutional.
Mississippi residents voted in 2001 to keep the Confederate symbol in the state's flag. But the state's public universities have stopped flying the banner in recent years. Some cities and counties have also done so.