By ZIVA BRANSTETTER and DYLAN GOFORTH
When President Barack Obama arrives in Durant today and travels to the town’s high school to give a speech, he will apparently be greeted by residents waving Confederate flags.
In this video, shot this morning by a source for The Frontier, a woman says she doesn’t know when Obama plans on arriving. He’s set to give a speech at 5 p.m. about “expanding economic opportunity for communities across the country, including the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,” according to the White House.
In the video, the woman tells the man about a Facebook group called “Stand by the flag rally,” and anticipated people from “Ardmore, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area” to join them later today.
South Carolina and other states removed the Confederate flag from their capitol grounds after the shooting deaths of nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. The shootings prompted a national debate about the flag.
The Confederate flag was flown, along with 13 other flags, at the Oklahoma state capitol for 22 years. In 1988, it was removed (along with the other flags on the grounds) for a capitol renovation.
When the flags went back up following the work, the Confederate flag was absent and the pole it had flown on was empty.
Currently, each of the 14 poles hosts an Oklahoma state flag.
The Confederate flag has been a divisive symbol for decades, but it was recently thrust into the spotlight following the deaths of the nine black parishioners killed in June at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof, the alleged gunman, reportedly said he was there to “kill black people,” and had been previously photographed posing with the Confederate flag.
The flag, which was still flying at the South Carolina capitol at the time of the shooting, was eventually taken down — first by a woman named Bree Newsome, who scaled the pole, took down the flag and was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
Authorities there hoisted the flag back up, but took it down for good days later.
Wednesday’s rally is only the most recent black eye on the state. Last week, while in Tulsa for a speech, Gov. Mary Fallin incorrectly identified the three branches of the government as “the Supreme Court, you have the legislative branch and you have the people – the people and their ability to vote.”
Then, earlier this week, the Facebook page for Oklahoma’s republican party recycled a meme comparing welfare recipients to animals.
So much negative attention was focused on the state in 2014 – there were bills proposing the cancelation of AP history courses, targeting the LGBTQ community here, and Rep. John Bennett held a series of town hall meetings where he called Islam “a cancer that needs to be cut out” of the country – that Tulsa Chamber of Commerce leaders were afraid it would affect the state’s ability to draw in new business.