Resistance to the vote has surfaced already: The Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, in a post on its Facebook page, suggested rallying voters to impede any efforts to replace the flag. “We need to come up with ways to make this as hard on them as possible and make them regret it,” the post said.
One person replied, “I have a flag and it’s not changing.”
During the discussion in the Legislature, much of the dissent about changing the flag was focused less on an outright defense of it and more about voicing support of a referendum.
“They’ve come to expect that where I live,” Representative Jeffrey S. Guice, a Republican, said.
Chris Brown, a Republican state representative, said he had heard from many constituents who supported removing the flag but who also wanted to use a statewide vote to send a message about Mississippi.
“Let’s not steal their joy,” Mr. Brown said. “They want to show the world that they’re moving on.”
It would be a sharp contrast from the last time the flag was opened to a statewide ballot, in 2001, when voters overwhelmingly decided to keep the flag.
The renewed debate has also led some to reflect on what has changed, and what hasn’t, over the past two decades. One black lawmaker recalled forums held around the state that became so antagonistic that he feared for his life.
The effort was revived five years ago after a white supremacist killed nine African-American worshipers in a Charleston, S.C., church, prompting the removal of monuments to the Confederacy across the region as well as battle flags on statehouse grounds in Alabama and South Carolina. (Several other Southern states have flags that are regarded as obliquely referencing Confederate iconography, including Alabama and Florida.)
Many cities moved on their own to take down the flag and all eight of the state’s public universities lowered it on their campuses. In Laurel, southeast of Jackson, the mayor held back tears on Tuesday as he issued an executive order removing the flag from city grounds. “I have lived through some things with this flag,” Mayor Johnny Magee, who is black, said in a quavering voice as he announced the order.