President Obama was twice faced with protesters waving the Confederate battle flag during his trip to Oklahoma Wednesday.
Near Durant High School, where the president spoke early Wednesday evening to tout a recent program that would bring high-speed internet access to low-income areas of the state, a small Confederate flag rally greeted him.
“We’re not gonna stand down from our heritage,” protester Trey Johnson told local television station KFOR. “You know, this flag’s not racist. And I know a lot of people think it is, but it’s really not.”
About a dozen protesters brandishing the flag also stood across the street from the hotel where Obama was staying.
The Confederate symbol rocketed into the national spotlight after Dylann Storm Roof, who fatally shot nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina, was found in photos displaying the battle flag. It has since become the topic of widespread debate, with politicians calling for its removal from national parks and other federal lands.
Last week, the Confederate flag came down from the South Carolina Statehouse for the first time in 54 years, after a vote from state leaders ordered its removal. On Twitter, the president praised South Carolina’s move, calling it a “meaningful step towards a better future.”
On Thursday, the president is scheduled to make a trip to El Reno prison, located just outside the city, as part of his focus on criminal justice reform. It will be the first time a sitting president visits a federal prison.