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Thompson defends legislation that targets Confederate monuments in national parks

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson issued a statement Wednesday defending his support of legislation that takes aim at Confederate monuments and memorials within the country’s national parks, including the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Thompson’s comments come days after The Post published an article highlighting the provision in House Resolution 7608, that calls for the National Park Service to remove Confederate monuments and memorials from national parks.

“It is time to remove symbols of hate and divisiveness from our national parks,” said Thompson, whose district includes Vicksburg. “Our nation’s public lands, national parks, and great outdoors are a huge part of what makes this country great.”

The bill, known as “HR 7608” is titled the “Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2021.” It was sponsored by Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) and contains a provision that could severely change the history documented at the Vicksburg National Military Park, as well as 21 other national parks commemorating Civil War battles.

Thompson was the lone member of Mississippi’s four-person delegation in the House to vote in support of the bill.

If the bill were signed into law, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said, “It would devastate the city of Vicksburg’s economy because of our tourism in the city.”

Flaggs said he is working with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) “to try to figure out how it will not hurt Vicksburg.” He declined to comment on Thompson’s vote.

The bill contains a section requiring the National Park Service to “remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials and plaques as defined by ‘NPS, Management Policies’” within 180 days after the bill becomes law.

The bill prohibits the National Park Service from spending money to purchase or display a Confederate flag “with the exception of specific circumstances where the flags provide historical context.”

It also requires the Secretary of the Interior to present an inventory of all items with Confederate names to the House Appropriations Committee within 90 days after the bill becomes law.

The bill passed the House July 24 by a vote of 224-189 that was split mostly along party lines. The bill was sent to the Senate on July 30.

Mississippi has three national parks commemorating Civil War battles — Vicksburg National Military Park; Tupelo National Battlefield; and Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Site in Lee County, in the northeastern part of the state.

By its wording, this legislation would put any image or monument that recognizes or in any way honors Confederate troops and units at any of the national parks that document the history of the Civil War in jeopardy of being removed.

“Confederate monuments should be placed where they can be studied, where people will know exactly who and what they were,” Thompson said. “We should not honor and glorify them.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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