JACKSON, Miss. – A gathering of new flag supporters at a Jackson restaurant was not unlike the campaign their side ran -- very low key.
Only about a dozen advocates for a new Mississippi banner -- soundly defeated in a statewide election Tuesday -- showed up at Hal and Mal's Restaurant for a post-election party.
The small group, which included members of Mississippi's NAACP chapter, sat in a back room of the pub, discussing the disappointing but not-unexpected results. A poll suggested that the century-old flag, with its Confederate symbol, would prevail handily.
"I voted because I just didn't like the old flag," said J.B. Goodsell of Jackson. "We lost that war 140 years ago. There's no sense in fighting over it now. It surprises me how many people want to continue the fight."
A common theme of the relaxed conversation was the state's negative perception around the country and its potential backlash. News organizations from across the nation and parts of Europe have covered the election and its implications extensively.
"The flag -- outside of a symbol of racism -- is an advertisement," said Jackson lawyer Tony Gaylor. "As long as the state continues to advertise itself as racist, it will be seen as racist.
"We can only hope that one day the state of Mississippi will be dragged into the 21st century, into progress," he said.
Said Goodsell, "Internally, a new flag doesn't mean anything. The image of the state outside is what this vote is about."
The crowd grew as the evening wore on. Many said they were optimistic -- even confident -- that the state eventually would have a banner that is not offensive to so many Mississippi residents.
"We are a people who believe in freedom, and those who believe in freedom will not rest," said Eugene Bryant Sr. of Monticello, president of the Mississippi NAACP.
"We always believe in racial reconciliation," Bryant said. "We can't destroy the heritage of the Confederacy because it is in the hearts and minds of the people."
Malcolm White, co-owner of Hal and Mal's, said the state Legislature should have settled the matter in January, the start of its most recent session. Instead, they shunned their responsibility and called for the referendum, he said.
"This is not a defining moment by putting it to a popular vote," said White. "This is not the end of the road. The struggle will continue."