For White Supremacists, is Mississippi the Diehard Confederacy or Anchor of the Ongoing Confederacy?
Mississippi declares April Confederate Heritage Month
A proclamation from Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declaring April as “Confederate Heritage Month,” is one that has appeared online in previous years, and similar to ones issued by previous administrations, a spokesman said.
Bryant’s proclamation appears on the website for the Mississippi division of the Sons of the Confederacy, but not on the governor’s official proclamation page, as reported by the Jackson Free Press Wednesday. The governor’s site allows users the ability to request proclamations.
The governor’s chief of communications, Clay Chandler, pointed out that previous governors Haley Barbour and Ronnie Musgrove issued similar proclamations:
“Like his predecessors — both Republican and Democrat — who issued similar proclamations, Gov. Bryant believes Mississippi’s history deserves study and reflection, no matter how unpleasant or complicated parts of it may be,” Chandler said. “Like the proclamation says, gaining insight from our mistakes and successes will help us move forward.”
Chandler confirmed that the proclamation was issued at the request of the Sons of the Confederacy.
The proclamation notes that April 25, 2016 is set aside for Confederate Memorial Day, which is observed as a state holiday.
The proclamation says “it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain from insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us.”
A similar proclamation from Bryant appeared online in 2012. Mississippi is the last state in the country to fly the Confederate battle flag above its state capitol. Bryant’s proclamation was issued weeks before 19 bills addressing the state flag died in committee. Bryant has gone on record that any change to the state flag must come through public referendum. A 2001 vote solidified the state’s current flag.
News of protest at the police killing of Jonathan Sanders in Stonewall, Mississippi a few months ago:
One of the last things that Jonathan Sanders, an unarmed black man, reportedly said before he died was, “Let me go. I can’t breathe.” On Wednesday night, a white police officer in the small town of Stonewall, Mississippi allegedly strangled Sanders, a 39-year-old black horseman, with a flashlight before killing him in view of his family members.
Officer Kevin Herrington pulled Sanders off a horse and choked him with a flashlight, Sander’s attorney, Stewart Parrish, initially told an ABC affiliate. Parrish later clarified that those allegations came from family members who witnessed the death. Parrish said that Sanders experienced “some kind of asphyxiation” during the altercation.
Sanders died on the scene and leaves behind two children.
“We won’t know until the autopsy is over what was the actual cause of death,” Stonewall Police Chief Michael Street told The Guardian. “But there was no flashlight used to choke anybody — that’s false. And there were no shots fired by either man, there were no weapons at all, and he was not dragged off a horse.”
Sander’s girlfriend, Charita Kennedy, told the ABC affiliate that his horse buggy had the proper lights and that he wasn’t violating any laws. She also said that Sanders told the officer he couldn’t breathe.
Perhaps anticipating the unrest and protests that have taken place in other cities where black men were killed by white police officers, Street previously told the ABC affiliate, “We just ask that the citizens allow that to take place, not to try to take anything out in the streets. Our door is open.”
The Clarion Ledger reported that Sanders had previous encounters with the police. He was once convicted on charges of sale of cocaine in 2003, and was arrested in 2001 for other issues.
Of its ten part-time officers, Stonewall’s police department only has one black officer, the Guardian found. The city has 1,444 residents; 77 percent of residents are white and 23 percent are black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has stepped in to investigate the incident. Officer Harrington has been placed on administrative leave with pay.
Not much more is currently known about Sander’s death at this time. But the death of an unarmed black man by strangulation seems to recall the death of Eric Garner, who died after he was put in a chokehold last year by officers. Garner’s infamous last words were “I can’t breathe,” which has since become a rallying cry for activists seeking to reform police activity toward people of color.
There’s recently been more attention to the problems behind police officers using excessive force. In just the first six months of this year, police have killed at least 550 people — many of whom were unarmed and/or mentally ill.