JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal lawsuit against Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant seeks to eliminate the nation's last state flag with the Confederate battle emblem.
In the suit filed Monday, attorney Carlos Moore of Grenada, Mississippi, said the flag is "state-sanctioned hate speech" that makes him and other African-Americans fear for their lives. He is asking a judge to remove the flag and declare it unconstitutional.
Republican Bryant, who recently issued a proclamation naming April as Confederate Heritage Month, has said voters should decide whether to keep the flag used since 1894.
"This is a frivolous attempt to use the federal court system to usurp the will of the people," Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler said Monday. "The governor hopes Attorney General Jim Hood will seek attorneys' fees to reimburse taxpayers the cost of defending against this needless drain on state resources."
The lawsuit was filed less than a week after Mississippi legislators killed several bills that would have either removed the Confederate emblem from the flag or withheld state money from schools and local governments that refuse to fly the current banner.
The public display of Confederate symbols has been debated since the slayings of black worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June. The white suspect had previously posed for online photos with the rebel flag, which has a red field with a blue X dotted by 13 white stars.
Moore's lawsuit says the rebel flag "has been shown to incite racial violence and terror." It cites the South Carolina attack and two incidents in Mississippi.
In 2014 at the University of Mississippi, a noose and a former Georgia flag that prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem were draped on a statue of James Meredith, the black student who integrated the university in 1962. In November 2015, a man known for flying large Mississippi and rebel flags from his car was charged with detonating an explosive after police said he threw a homemade device into a Wal-Mart store in Tupelo, Mississippi, after the retail chain stopped selling Confederate flags. The device made a loud bang but did no damage.
"With each passing day, plaintiff and other African-American citizens are subjugated to second-class status by virtue of the official state flag bearing the confederate battle flag emblem flying high and proud on public property within the state of Mississippi. It is past time for this unconstitutional practice to end," Moore wrote, using a lowercase c for confederate.
In a statewide election in 2001, Mississippi voters decided by a 2-to-1 margin to keep the flag that has the rebel emblem. Mississippi's population is almost 38 percent black.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .