Local activists with the Poor People’s Campaign made their message loud and clear this week when they set fire to the Confederate and Mississippi state flags just outside the gates of the Governor’s Mansion.
For the sixth week straight, the civil rights organization gathered Monday to protest white supremacy and racial inequality as part of a nation-wide demonstration mirroring that of the 1968 anti-poverty campaign organized by civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
“… This flag is a symbol of hatred in the state of Mississippi,” organizer Valencia Robinson yelled as she wrapped the Confederate flag tightly around her neck and shoulders. “I can’t breathe!”
Moments later, Robinson dangled the flag from a tall, thin pole while another organizer set it ablaze with a blue long-reach butane lighter, according to the newspaper. Another person held Mississippi’s state flag, which also features the Confederate battle emblem, to the fire and let it burn. It wasn’t long before both were smoldering piles of cloth on the concrete.
“No hate in our state!” protesters cheered and chanted as the flags continued to burn.
The Monday demonstration, which featured people of all ages and races, attracted no counter-protesters and ended with zero arrests, unlike other Poor People’s Campaign protests held across the nation in recent weeks. It did receive some push back from Gov. Phil Bryant, however, who criticized the group for exercising their rights “in a completely disrespectful and unproductive manner.”
“There are better ways to bring attention to one’s opinions than burning the state of Mississippi flag on a public street corner,” Byrant said in a statement following the protest.
Despite progress made in recent years, Mississippi still ranks as one of the poorest states in the nation with one of the darkest racial past.
For one, it has the highest rate of poverty, with the median household income falling under $42,000 per year. The state’s Black families are disproportionately affected, however, with roughly half of Black children living in poverty compared to 17 percent of their white kids, the Clarion Ledger reported. Mississippi also has the highest infant mortality rate in the country and the lowest life expectancy.
These disparate outcomes are just some of the reasons the Poor People’s Campaign continues to organize.
“We’ve been organizing. We’ve been rallying. We’ve been doing civil disobedience because we know that a change is going to come,” PPC national organizer Danielle Holmes told the newspaper. “Our work isn’t in vain here. This is the dawn of a new day. We send word to the governor. To the policy makers. No more. We will not be silenced anymore.”