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Sen. Claire McCaskill was asked whether confederate monuments should be removed

The Missouri Democrat answered it has a lot to do when the monuments were built

Bowling Green, Missouri CNN —  

Politicians, including President Donald Trump, should resist framing this month’s deadly clashes in Virginia as a fight over monuments, Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said Wednesday.

“Making what happened in Charlottesville about monuments is distracting … and divisive,” McCaskill said Wednesday. “What Charlottesville should really be about is unifying this country against hatred and bigotry.”

McCaskill, who is up for re-election next year in a state Trump won in 2016, called the division in the country “obvious” and said she wished the President “would focus more about the unification piece of this than picking things that would continue to divide us.”

The racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, more than one week ago left one counterprotester, Heather Heyer, dead, and has thrust race and history to the forefront of political discourse. The President had multiple different public responses about who was to blame for the violence in the bloody clashes, and remarks win which he equated neo-Nazis with counterprotesters have been widely criticized by both parties.

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“Never in my life did I think I would see hundreds of people from around the country marching under swastika flags. I didn’t believe I’d see that proudly, without masks, defiantly – that’s a moment that can unite this country, and unfortunately I think the President missed that opportunity,” McCaskill said.

McCaskill’s comments came in response to a question from CNN about what she believes should happen to Missouri’s monuments.

In her reply, McCaskill drew a distinction between Confederate monuments built during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and sites like Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield near Springfield.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, speaks in Washington in July 2015.
Astrid Riecken/Getty Images
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, speaks in Washington in July 2015.

“I think it’s really important that we look at what the monument is, where it is and when it was put up – and what it celebrates,” McCaskill said. “We have some battlegrounds in Missouri that are historically important. I think it’s important that we keep those monuments and parks in place … so that kids can learn about the tragedy of the Civil War.”

On the other hand, McCaskill said, monuments erected “as a protest around Civil Rights laws … probably are not of value in terms of history lessons.”

But she said decisions should be made by those communities, rather than in Washington. And, McCaskill added, some of those communities already are taking action.

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Earlier this year, St. Louis and the Missouri Civil War Museum reached an agreement to remove a Confederate monument in St. Louis’ Forest Park.

During a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, Trump again decried the movement in some cities to remove some of the monuments, blaming “weak, weak people” for allowing it.

“They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” the President said.

McCaskill, whose re-election race will be closely watched in 2018, is holding a slew of town halls in the state’s rural areas. Trump carried most of those parts of the state in November’s presidential election.