Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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June 30

The Neshoba Democrat on the decision to remove Confederate imagery from Mississippi's flag:

The driving force behind changing the state flag was pure humanity soaked in prayer and humility.

June 28's vote was a historic and unifying day for Mississippi with a rare bipartisanship emerging to propel the Legislature’s stunning vote to change the flag, a move few had imagined possible a week earlier.

The Confederate emblem on the flag, beloved and respected by many, was co-opted by the Ku Klux Klan and used during the civil rights era as a symbol of segregation, oppression and hate.

The fearful images were stark across the South and other parts of the country as television was coming of age and mobs raged about race and terrorized black communities that, unless you lived in that part of town, you may not know.

Few crimes of that era stand out like the “Mississippi Burning’’ murders on Father’s Day June 21, 1964. Under a plan hatched by the Ku Klux Klan with assistance from law enforcement officials, three young men, part of a massive black voter registration effort, were murdered by a mob on a lonesome road in rural Neshoba County.

They had been in town investigating the Klan’s burning five days earlier of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church out east in the Longdale community where a mob that included law enforcement — likely hooded and carrying the Confederate battle flag — beat some parishioners nearly to death.

To many black Mississippians and others, the state flag, with that emblem co-opted by the Klan, represents that era and the oppression and sin of slavery like terror in the night.

Racism was systemic in the 1960s and black people were horribly mistreated. Not just horribly mistreated, beaten and murdered, but men in business suits, young people and “proper’’women carried the battle flag in support of segregation symbolizing their resistance to the law of the land.

Mississippians had never voted on a flag until 2001. The flag legislators voted June 28 to remove was approved by the Legislature in 1894 and that law sunset in 1906.

The state had no official flag until 2001 when a Democrat Legislature with Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove held a vote because they didn’t have the courage to do what is right. The GOP’s courage ought to cost the Dems a few votes.

A direct vote this year on removal might have satisfied some, but the Legislature is well within its constitutional bounds to take the bold and decisive action it did.

Interestingly, there is no provision under the Mississippi Constitution or the Mississippi Code that permits a legislatively-directed referendum or ballot initiative to change the law.

Even before June 28, one thing was evident: more and more Mississippians are for changing the flag because it’s the right thing to do. The Legislature did what leaders are supposed to do and led.

We elect representatives to vote on the state bird, budgets, flags, roads and so on.

Your vote still counts because of representative government.

Republican Speaker of the House Philip Gunn in 2015 expressed his opinion that the flag needed to be changed to a good bit of fanfare, but the votes were not there and he pulled back.

Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Guntown, acknowledged he’d had a recent change on the flag. Like many, McMahan said he grew up in the 1980s with a somewhat innocuous understanding of the Confederate flag.

“When I look at that Confederate flag, I must confess that I think of ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ and my first love, Daisy Duke,” McMahan said on the Senate floor.

A conversation with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann over Oreos convinced him to change his mind. “I’m a Republican. Personally, I’m not going to support a Democrat battle flag,” McMahan said.

As much of the rest of the country collapses into chaos and rioting over George Floyd’s unjust murder and ANTIFA demands, it is no small accomplishment that the Mississippi Legislature could have such a passionate and heartfelt discussion and come out with the result they did.

The flag measure is not a response to the explosion of cultural Marxism and the cancel culture pulling down statues. It’s a sincere movement of the heart led by the Republican Speaker of the House and Lt. Gov. Hosemann in the Senate perhaps nudged by current events but Providentially so.

Republican leaders can take this newfound bipartisanship and work harder to unite all Mississippians.

The Mississippi GOP has demonstrated a sincerity of heart with the flag vote that we can only hope gives others confidence about the good motives of our statewide elected officials in the party of Lincoln who can’t in good conscience stand for as part of the state flag a Democrat battle flag that was the poster child of segregation 60 years ago.

Any lingering remnants of racism must be stomped out, yet we sense a re-kindling in the clumsy rush to defend the flag.

The Legislature did not capitulate to the left. Out of love and respect for those who suffered terror under the battle flag, children of God, one in the human race, removing the flag was the right thing to do.

Online: http://neshobademocrat.com

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June 28

The Daily Journal on taking caution as coronavirus cases increase across the state:

In the last week, we’ve seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the state. While the week started with a total number of cases for a five-day period, the daily reports that followed were staggering, including over 1,000 new cases reported on June 25.

In interviews with the media, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said the increase in cases are occurring through generalized community transmission. There are no specific locations or events, and the concentration of new cases are in the 18-40 age range.

The primary concern remains the same as it was in March; we must do what we can to keep hospitalizations down in order to avoid an overflow. Yes, the age range that is currently seeing the spike are more likely to recover, but they are still able to spread the virus to our most vulnerable and drive a growth of the pandemic. And if we continue to see an increase in hospitalizations, then those who need to be seen for other emergencies will not have the ability to be seen.

Before this month, our highest number of hospitalizations occurred on June 11, with 486 statewide. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen an increase, as we now have over 530 hospitalized.

Locally, in a recent interview with the Daily Journal, North Mississippi Health Services Chief Medical Officer Jeremy Blanchard said he believes we’re seeing a surge in cases from Memorial Day, but despite this increase, North Mississippi Medical Center has the capacity for more patients and they are currently not seeing an impact on their elective surgeries.

On June 26, Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton issued an executive order that mandates all people inside the Tupelo city limits wear a mask or a face covering when at an indoor public building or business institution.

We believe this is the right move. Given the increase in cases, we cannot be too careful and we must respect those around us. Just because the state reopened earlier this month does not mean that we’re back to normal and the virus has passed us. We must remain vigilant by wearing a mask, washing our hands and practicing social distancing.

Tupelo is again leading the way with the right response to the current spike in cases. Let’s all do our part and protect our community.

Online: https://www.djournal.com

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June 27

Greenwood Commonwealth on a bill that would change current Mississippi “habitual offender” laws:

The Mississippi Legislature should pass House Bill 1024, which applies a 15-year time limit on offenses that can be considered under our state habitual offender laws. The bill also excludes nonviolent crimes from being factored into the habitual offender calculation. These are reasonable reforms that will reduce Mississippi’s incarceration rate, which is one of the highest in the world.

If Mississippi had an excellent prison system designed to rehabilitate and reform, then perhaps a high incarceration rate wouldn’t be so bad. But our prisons are a mess. They are overrun with gang activity. They are grossly understaffed with poorly paid and poorly trained guards. They are full of misplaced mentally ill. The prison facilities are poorly maintained. Given this, locking people away for life based on crimes that occurred decades ago makes no sense.

The habitual offender law is especially cruel toward addicts. An addict can get convicted of felony possession and be sentenced for life based on another felony drug possession conviction that occurred decades earlier. Three convictions spread out over a 50-year span could trigger a mandatory habitual offender life sentence. This is not only cruel and inhumane to the addict, but it further burdens an already overburdened state penal system. It put addicts in a place where little will be done to treat their addiction. In some cases, it puts addicts in a deadly situation where they can be abused by vicious gang members. Addiction is a mental illness. Many addicts need treatment, not a death sentence.

The bill in its current state would not be retroactive, which we believe is a mistake. We not only need to prevent overuse of the habitual offender laws in the future, we need to correct our decades of past mistakes. Habitual offender laws were a knee-jerk political reaction to rising crime rates during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. They take away discretion from our prosecutors, judges and parole officers and make managing prison populations even more difficult.

Our prisons are in horrible condition, which is an indictment on our society and government. We need to acknowledge that habitual offender laws were a mistake and correct this mistake as soon as possible. Reducing our prison population is a necessary step until we can get our prisons back into decent shape. Passing House Bill 1024 would be a step in the right direction.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com