The Mid-South Flaggers used multiple versions of the Confederate Battle Flag and the Mississippi State Flag. League members carried the Black Cross, the Southern Rights flag, and several Confederate Battle Flags. Oxford was the first protest since the Uvalda, GA demonstrations a year ago in which the League used the Confederate Battle Flag. The march was an arduous trek from the Kroger grocery store to the Oxford town square to the Confederate monument on campus and back.
We were 15 minutes late arriving in Oxford, but when we got there Kroger had already called the police to have the Mid-South Flaggers evicted from their property. The demonstration relocated to the parking lot of a nearby bank and proceeded from there to the Ole Miss campus. Along the way, we were told multiple times by police that we weren’t allowed to stop and “gather,” even for a brief respite from the heat, in front of any private business.
I’ve participated in eight League demonstrations – Uvalda, Murfreesboro, Atlanta, Greenville, Tallahassee, Richmond, Montgomery, and Wetumpka – and have never seen such a negative reaction from the public. It quickly became obvious that commuters and pedestrians were reacting to the sight of the Confederate Battle Flag, not the message of the Mid-South Flaggers, which was displayed on several professionally made signs, and that most people were either strongly for or against the Confederate Battle Flag. There were people enthusiastically honking their horns, but also plenty of “Go Homes.” At any rate, we distributed lots of Free Magnolias to our supporters and ignored the catcalls.
Outwardly, this was the most moderate rally in which I have participated, yet it provoked the most opposition because of the massed Confederate Battle Flags. There were not one, but two black Confederates in Oxford, in addition to a mixed race family, who I presume were some relation to HK Edgerton, who headlined the event and delivered a brief speech at the soldier’s monument. Mississippi was burning in Oxford, but it was just the heat, which gave me a sunburn and nausea and forced us to cut short our trip and return to Tupelo.
During our march through Oxford, we were accompanied by the SPLC’s Keegan Hankes who was on assignment to write an article. We last saw Keegan in Uvalda, GA at the first Southern Demographic Displacement rally which targeted Mayor Paul Bridges. I noted the irony that this whole controversy was ignited by the noose that was hung around the neck of the James Meredith statue on campus. It was Meredith who integrated Ole Miss back in 1962.
Years later, James Meredith became a rightwing conservative and worked for Sen. Jesse Helms, who fired him because he was too extreme! Meredith supported David Duke’s gubernatorial campaign and came to detest the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.“Duke believes, and I do, too, that there are millions of whites in this country who have been denied their opportunity at the American dream,” Meredith said.
As Ole Miss moves to “explain” its heritage, I found myself wondering if this includes the James Meredith statue on campus, or what Meredith himself thinks of the millionaires the Civil Rights Movement created.
Note: The League will be holding our own demonstration in Oxford at some point in the future. We asked the police about that while we were here.