Court rules on suit by white-supremacist group

Associated Press/August 18, 2000

Jackson, Miss. -- The University of Mississippi can ban spectators from waving Confederate flags at campus athletic events, the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Friday.

The decision by the New Orleans court came three years after Richard Barrett, a lawyer for the white supremacist Nationalist Movement, sued over the issue.

U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. in 1999 ruled that the ban, which limits Confederate flags in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, is a reasonable limitation. Barrett claimed the ban violated his First Amendment Rights.

University officials cited safety concerns for the ban, saying the stick on the end of the flag could be considered dangerous.

The 5th Circuit said it found nothing wrong with "the university defendants' game management policies, which prohibited spectators from carrying sticks and large flags or banners into the university's football stadium during athletic contests."

It also said Biggers' dismissal of the case "was not an abuse of discretion." The court did not get into the details of Barrett's case. Barrett claimed the district court erred in dismissing the affidavits and other documents in support of his position.

Ole Miss officials adopted the stick flag policy in fall 1997, weeks after former football coach Tommy Tuberville asked fans not to wave Confederate flags at games. Tuberville said he didn't want the flag associated with Ole Miss because of mixed perceptions of its meaning.

Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat and members of the student government were unavailable Friday for comment on the case.

Umbrellas, alcoholic beverages and flags no larger than 12x14 inches also were part of the university's ban.

Barrett said in the lawsuit that he and two friends were attempting to display a 3-inch by 5-inch Confederate battle flag when they were ordered to stop.

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