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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Call For Removal of Mississippi Flag

Oregon DOT
File photo. Flags for each of the 50 states fly outside of the Oregon Capitol building in Salem.

Oregon lawmakers are demanding the removal of the Mississippi state flag from display in front of the Oregon capitol.

A flag for each of the 50 states flies outside Oregon’s Capitol building. The Mississippi flag concerns lawmakers. The Confederate stars and bars fly on its top left corner.

State Representative Lew Frederick said removing that flag would be a start.

“The flag has allowed us to begin to talk about some things we were not talking about before and that’s good," he said. "But we’ve got to start looking into the deeper issues, regarding profiling and health care and education.”

A bill to take down the flag stalled this past session. Now 38 lawmakers have signed on to a letter to a legislative administrator demanding it.

Confederate flags are coming down around the country following the shooting of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston last month.

The Charleston suspect posed for photos with the stars and bars, and the flags of former Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa. The nation has debated symbols like this since the shooting. Frederick said they should be taken down.

“This is clearly a racist symbol of all the things we tried to get rid of a long time ago,” he said.

But he also said the flag and discussions about removing it potentially distract people from doing something more meaningful about racism. Oregon lawmakers passed a bill this session to discourage police profiling and another to boost the number of minority educators in the state.

In Idaho, the Boise mayor took down the Mississippi flag in front of city hall. That was the week after the shooting. Other symbols of the Confederacy dot the Northwest, such as a highway marker named for Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Ridgefield, Washington.

For the Mississippi flag in Salem, lawmakers said it can be replaced with the state’s former flag displaying a magnolia tree.