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Reaction to a deadly white supremacist march that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend has been mixed across Mississippi, but Hattiesburg’s new mayor had a clear message Monday night: The Hub City rejects hate.

“While I respect the rights of any person to voice his or her viewpoint on any political issue, Hattiesburg will be a city that protects and values each and every individual,” Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker wrote on Facebook. “We will not condone discrimination, nor will we buy into inflammatory or divisive rhetoric.”

“Regardless of what the rest of the nation or state does, our city will rise to the occasion. I’ve seen us do it so many times, and I have no doubt we will do it again. Let us believe the best about each other. Let us be unafraid to ask ourselves the tough questions. But most importantly, let us see that we share a common destiny and walk boldly toward a rich, vibrant future.”

Barker said citizens have a duty to speak out forcefully against white supremacy.

“Instead of simply dismissing or ignoring voices of hate and extremism, I think we have to weigh whether that posture should shift to one of direct yet civil confrontation. I think we have to weigh the possibility that remaining silent actually allows divisive messages to go unchecked and therefore pass as acceptable.”

At the Charlottesville rally, white supremacists were seen carrying the Mississippi State Flag. On Monday, U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker (both from Mississippi) reiterated calls to change the Confederate-emblem-bearing Mississippi state flag. Hattiesburg is one of several cities in Mississippi that does not fly the state flag.

You can read Barker’s full message below:

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Posted by Toby Barker on Monday, August 14, 2017

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