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Mississippi governor says he would sign bill to remove Confederate emblem

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on Saturday for the first time said he would sign a bill to remove the Confederate emblem from the state’s flag if the legislation makes it to his desk. 

“The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”

Mississippi lawmakers have been drafting legislation to remove the emblem from the flag’s upper-left corner following a heightened focus on Confederate symbols and racial injustice. 

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In his Saturday post, Reeves said that bringing the state together will be “harder than recovering from tornadoes, harder than historic floods, harder than agency corruption, or prison riots or the coming hurricane season—even harder than battling the coronavirus.”

“For economic prosperity and for a better future for my kids and yours, we must find a way to come together. To heal our wounds, to forgive, to resolve that the page has been turned, to trust each other. With God’s help, we can,” Reeves wrote. “No matter where you are … I love you, Mississippi.”

The statement comes as a sudden reversal from Reeves, who just this week advocated for any flag changes to be approved through a vote at the ballot box, not by legislators in Jackson. 

“There’s an effort underway across the country to erase our nation’s history—to pretend that all of us are so much better than our ancestors that we must eliminate their memory,” Reeves wrote on Wednesday.

A possible resolution introduced over the weekend would be the first legislative push to change the state flag since residents voted nearly 2-to-1 to keep the current flag in 2001. 

Two-thirds of the 120 state House members would need to vote in favor of suspending the rules to consider the change. It would then need to move through the typical legislative process by a majority vote before moving to the state Senate.

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Sources close to House leadership say they have currently have a slim majority of votes to suspend rules, Mississippi Today reported.

If the bill passed through both chambers, it would then move to Reeves’s desk for a signature.

Mississippi’s flag, which was adopted in 1894 by white lawmakers, is the last remaining state to include the Confederate emblem

The potential change comes amid a national conversation about racial injustice and Confederate monuments following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The state has been under increasing pressure to change its flag. Walmart is no longer displaying the Mississippi flag in stores, consistent with its policy "to not sell merchandise with the Confederate flag from stores and online sites."

Country star and Mississippi native Faith Hill called on her home state to change the flag. 

"I understand many view the current flag as a symbol of heritage and Southern pride, but we have to realize that this flag is a direct symbol of terror for our Black brothers and sisters," she tweeted.

The NCAA also banned any collegiate championship events from being played in states where the Confederate flag is prominently displayed. Shortly after, a star player on Mississippi State’s football team declared "either change the flag or I won't be representing this state anymore."