ATLANTA – Southern heritage groups called for an economic boycott of Atlanta on Wednesday, a day after Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a state flag without the divisive Confederate rebel "X."
About 50 people rallied outside the Capitol, saying tepid turnout for the flag referendum meant people thought it was phony. The ballot didn't allow voters to choose the 1956 version dominated by the Confederate cross of stars.
"The rigged referendum yesterday was an insult to the good dignity of every Georgian," said Steve Harris, vice chairman of the Southern Party of Georgia (search).
"Large segments of the Georgia General Assembly have more regard for the Yankee dollars... than they do for the wishes of their constituents," said Ray McBerry of the Georgia League of the South. "We encourage Southerners to cease doing business within the city-state of Atlanta."
Voters overwhelmingly chose to keep the red, white and blue banner adopted last year by the Legislature. About three of every four voters chose that flag over a blue flag selected in 2001 to replace the 1956 banner that was dominated by the Confederate battle emblem.
Only about one in five registered voters participated in Tuesday's nonbinding referendum. But political leaders of both parties expressed confidence that the referendum will end the flag flap.
"We can finally close this chapter in the history of Georgia," said state Sen. George Hooks, a Democrat who helped design the current state flag.
"The people of Georgia spoke with great clarity," said Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue (search), who won the state's top office two years ago in part because of unrest over the 2001 flag.
The 1956 flag, which blacks vehemently oppose, was replaced in 2001 by then-Gov. Roy Barnes (search). The replacement, which included the 1956 flag in miniature with four other flags, caused so much outrage that it helped Perdue oust Barnes in 2002.
Perdue promised a referendum on the issue, but authorized yet another state flag last year, based on the former national flag of the Confederacy: two red stripes and one white, extending from a blue field. Defenders of the Confederate emblem felt betrayed by the move.
With neither flag inciting strong emotions, many voters were swayed by aesthetics.
"It's a better-looking flag," John Buchner, a graduate student from Athens, said of the banner voters approved.