Protesters kicked off campus for flying Mississippi state flag
- Protesters at the University of Southern Mississippi were asked to remove the state flag from their vehicle even though school regulations allow demonstrators to carry the flag on campus.
- University officials later conceded that while President Rodney Bennet had decided to stop flying the state flag on campus, individuals are still allowed to carry or fly the flag as they please.
- The students are considering legal action based on infringement of their First Amendment rights.
Protesters at the University of Southern Mississippi were asked to remove the state flag from their vehicle even though school regulations allow demonstrators to carry the flag on campus.
Video of the protest shows at least one school police officer walking the protesters off campus after telling them that the school’s president has banned the flag from flying at the school.
Indeed, USM president Rodney Bennett elected to fly only the American flag on campus after student protesters alleged that Mississippi’s state flag promotes racism since it contains the Confederate battle emblem in its upper left corner.
However, university officials explained that while the school will no longer fly the state flag, individuals are still allowed to carry or fly the flag on campus.
“The University of Southern Mississippi supports the right to lawfully and peacefully protest on or in front of the Hattiesburg campus with regard to the state flag. Any information leading individuals to believe otherwise is inaccurate,” the school released in a statement to WDAM News.
Accordingly, the protesters who were asked to leave Sunday are considering potential legal action, which one local lawyer said would likely work in their favor.
“The fact that a police officer told them that they had to remove that flag is enough to create the basis of a lawsuit,” attorney Alexander Ignatiev said.
Ignatiev added that the protesters, who gather on campus every Sunday to protest Bennett’s decision to stop flying the flag, could easily base their lawsuit on a First Amendment violation.
“Flags are a protected type of speech and fundamentally a public university doesn’t have the ability to resist what type of flag was shown,” he explained.
Moreover, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has expressed his support for flying the flag on campus, saying the taxpayer-funded institution ought to abide by the opinion of local constituents, who routinely voice favor for the flag.
“I think that if you’ve got a public funded institution like that, they should be respectful of the people of the state,” he told the Associated Press.
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