Mississippi authorities are trying to determine whether another vehicle caused the wreck that killed a black man who was a well-known supporter of Confederate flag, viewed by many as a racist symbol, police said Thursday.
Anthony Hervey, who wrote a book called “Why I Wave the Confederate Flag: Written by a Black Man,” died on Sunday when the 2005 Ford Explorer he was driving left the roadway and flipped over. He was on his way home to Oxford, Mississippi, after attending a Confederate flag rally.
A passenger in the vehicle told authorities the vehicle was run off the road by a silver vehicle with five black males inside, according to a police statement released on Thursday.
Mississippi State Police have not determined the cause of the crash, and on Thursday said the investigation is ongoing. Authorities said they have determined Hervey’s Ford Explorer had not come in direct contact with another vehicle.
The report heightened suspicions that Hervey was being harassed because of his contrarian views on the Confederate battle flag, which has been the subject of heated debate across the country since last month’s massacre of nine black South Carolina churchgoers by a white gunman who had posed in photos with it.
Another witness said she saw the Explorer leave the road but could not confirm the passenger’s account of another vehicle, according to the police statement.
Hervey’s death prompted the Sons of Confederate Veterans to request a federal investigation, saying he was a friend who was likely killed for his race and beliefs.
Representatives of that group could not be immediately reached for comment.
Supporters of the Confederate flag say it is an honorable image of regional pride that is flown out of respect for Southern soldiers who died on the losing side in the 1861-65 American Civil War.
Opponents see it as a racist and hateful symbol of the South’s pro-slavery legacy.
Hervey often sat at a Confederate memorial in a public square in Oxford, sometimes wearing a gray Confederate uniform and waving a battle flag. He has addressed crowds in the United States and Europe.
In South Carolina, lawmakers permanently removed the flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia two weeks after the church killings.
Mississippi’s state flag still includes the Confederate battle flag in the top corner. Five Mississippi cities have voted not to fly the state flag on municipal buildings.
(Reporting by Therese Apel; Editing by Karen Brooks)