Mississippi gov might not block change to rebel-themed flag

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In this April 25, 2020 photograph, a small Mississippi state flag is held by a participant during a drive-by "re-open Mississippi" protest past the Governor's Mansion, in the background, in Jackson, Miss. This current flag has in the canton portion of the banner the design of the Civil War-era Confederate battle flag, that has been the center of a long-simmering debate about its removal or replacement. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday, for the first time, that he probably would not stand in the way if legislators muster a large enough majority to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.

Amid the backdrop of national protests over racial injustice, Mississippi is under increasing pressure from business and religious leaders, sports leagues and others to divorce itself from a symbol that many see as racist. It is the last state to include the emblem in its flag.

The state's annual legislative session is almost over, and it takes a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to consider a bill after the normal deadlines have passed.

“If they get those votes, a veto would be pointless,” Reeves wrote on Facebook. “The debate would be over, and the flag would change.”

Reeves still said, though, that he prefers having a statewide election to let voters choose a flag design.

The governor's statement came hours after two of Mississippi's other Republican officials proposed replacing Confederate emblem with the words “In God We Trust."

The Confederate battle emblem has a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. White supremacists in the Mississippi Legislature put it on the state flag in 1894 as backlash for the political power African Americans gained during Reconstruction after the Civil War.

Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 statewide election, but the design has remained contentious. Elsewhere in the country, debate has sharpened as Confederate monuments and statues recalling past slavery have been toppled by protesters or deliberately removed by authorities amid a groundswell against racial inequities.