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Clinton in Florissant: Removing Confederate flag important, but not solution

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FLORISSANT, MO — Hillary Clinton will argue Tuesday at an event near St. Louis that the groundswell of support in favor of removing the Confederate flag from statehouses and stores is an important step for the United States, but not the solution to addressing racial tensions.

Clinton will give remarks and participate in a roundtable at Christ the King Church in Florissant, Missouri, a community just miles from Ferguson, where the shooting of a black male by a police officer in 2014 sparked protests and started ongoing conversation about race and policing.

Clinton will “urge that in addition to the renewed conversation about the Confederate flag we can have, we must confront deeper, substantive issues around the racial divide that persists in America,” an aide said ahead of the event.

Clinton’s comments about the Confederate flag come days after Dylann Roof, a white supremacist killed nine men and women at a historic African American church in Charleston, South Carolina last week. The shooting has sparked a conversation about the Confederate flag, particularly the fact that the flag still flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag to be removed from the grounds earlier this week as pressure mounted.

In 2007, Hillary Clinton said she believed the Confederate flag should be “removed from the Statehouse grounds” in part because “we should have one flag that we all pay honor to, as I know that most people in South Carolina do every single day.”

On Saturday, as the conversation swirled, Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign’s press secretary, said the former presidential candidate’s “position is unchanged from 2007.”

After Haley announced her decision, Clinton tweeted: “.@nikkihaley is right 2 call for removal of a symbol of hate in SC. As I’ve said for years, taking down Confederate flag is long overdue. –H”

Other 2016 Democrats – like former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – have called for the flag to be removed. And a handful of Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, supported Haley’s decision to call for the flag removal.

Some of the nation’s biggest retailers – Walmart, Sears, and eBay – also announced this week that they are prohibiting any Confederate flag merchandise for being sold in their stores.

“We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer,” Walmart spokesman Brian Nick said.

In addition to addressing the Confederate flag conversation, Clinton will “talk about how we turn grief, anger and despair into purpose and action that will address the persistent problems facing communities like Florissant,” the aide said.

The event will be hosted by Reverend Karen Anderson of Ward Chapel AME and Pastor Traci Blackmon of Christ the King, United Church of Christ. Both women have been involved involved in the post-Ferguson protests and conversation, including ministering to the protestors and preaching about the impact of Michael Brown’s shooting in 2014.

Clinton’s campaign announced she would be visiting Missouri last month, particularly for a fundraiser hosted by Trudy Busch Valentine, the heir to the well-known St. Louis brewing family.

But in light of the shooting in Charleston and the unrest in Ferguson, the Clinton aide said the candidate instructed her staff to find a church where she could meet with community leaders and talk about their work on race issues.

Clinton has run head first into issues of race since announcing her campaign in April, a departure from her failed 2008 bid.

On Saturday, Clinton told an audience in San Francisco that the United States’ struggle with race is not over, arguing that as “tempting” as it is to isolate the Charleston shooting as a random event, “America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.”

“I know this is a difficult topic to talk about,” she said. “I know that so many of us hoped by electing our first black President we had turned the page on this chapter in our history. I know there are truths we don’t like to say out loud in discussions with our children, but we have to. That is the only way we can possibly move forward together.”

Earlier in the week, Clinton called for a “candid national conversation about race and about discrimination, prejudice, hatred” in an interview, and said it was time for the United states to “face hard truths” about race in a speech before a host of Latino elected officials in Las Vegas.

By Dan Merica