Confederate sympathizers protested the University of Mississippi’s rebranding efforts to minimize its racist past.
About 35 demonstrators carried Confederate battle flags Saturday morning through parts of Oxford, where university officials have decided to rename some campus streets and cut back on using the “Ole Miss” nickname.
Some say the nickname originated as a term used by slaves to refer to plantation owners’ wives, and university officials plan to limit its use to sports and spirit activities rather than academics.
But the protesters say the university should honor its Confederate heritage instead of obscuring it.
“How can you take a Confederate school built by Confederates in a Confederate state and say you’re not Confederate?” said Debbie Sible, who helped organize the protest. “It’s like my dog trying to dress up my cat.”
Sible, whose two sons attend the university, said the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, which she insisted had little to do with slavery.
“People in the South should be proud,” she said. “They should be so proud if they knew the type [of] men that were in the Confederacy, and we haven’t seen men like them since probably the Spartans in the 300 –phenomenal, and our people grow up and our kids [are] ashamed, not knowing the truth.”
The demonstrators attracted attention from passing motorists – including one woman who leaned out of her car to shout: “You make us look worse.”
The pro-Confederate group handed out pamphlets that described political correctness as cultural Marxism and warned against the “Jones agenda,” referring to Chancellor Dan Jones, who approved the changes.
The university had previously banned Confederate flags from its athletic events and replaced its Colonel Reb mascot with a black bear.
Some demonstrators urged Mississippi to secede from the United States.
“We are here first and foremost for the soldiers who died defending this state when they were invaded,” said Sidle, a member of the Mid-South Flaggers group opposing the university’s rebranding efforts. “Secondly, we are here for our freedoms. We shouldn’t have to have a permit to peacefully assemble on a public sidewalk. We are here because everybody lost in that war, and we are here because if we had sovereign states we wouldn’t have a big central government.”
The Mid-South Flaggers refer to the chancellor in a Facebook post as a “carpetbagger,” a derogatory term dating from the Reconstruction era for an outsider who meddles in or attempts to gain from another area’s affairs.
While some community members greeted the demonstrators with the university’s “Hotty Toddy” fight song, the city’s mayor wasn’t impressed.
“When I see a march like this I try to ignore it,” said Mayor Pat Patterson. “But, you know, on behalf of the community, I think they can go back to Alabama — and kiss you know what.”
Watch this video report posted online by WREG-TV: