Giacomo Bologna | Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Tuesday evening that mandates the removal of the state flag and bans future use of the Confederate emblem.
Mississippi was the only state whose flag contained the Confederate battle flag. Lawmakers adopted it nearly three decades after the Civil War.
“Whether you are proud of this step or angry with us over the process, I want you to know that I love you,” Reeves said. “I am praying for you.”
Reeves had long refused to take a position on the flag, which the Legislature adopted in 1894. Nearly two-thirds of voters reaffirmed the flag in a 2001 referendum, and Reeves has repeatedly pointed to this referendum, saying only voters can decide to take the flag down.
He softened the stance a week ago, then announced on Saturday morning that the issue had grown too divisive and that he would sign whatever flag bill lawmakers passed.
Hours after the announcement, the Legislature began the formal process to take down the current flag.
Reeves said during a speech Tuesday that some people might never find common ground on the flag debate and that healing will not take place overnight.
The Mississippi state flag:What we know, and what’s next
“I know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag change,” Reeves said Tuesday. “They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history — a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect. I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome.”