Some 50 members of the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and their supporters descended on the Justice Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The white supremacists, some of whom proudly wore white Klan robes and carried Confederate flags, had planned the event for a few weeks, prompting Mayor Mike Signer and city officials to ask the residents to ignore the rally.
“Throughout the day, we urged folks not to take the bait — to deny the KKK the confrontation and celebrity they desire,” Signer said in a Facebook post. “Thousands of people followed that advice, attending a wonderful set of alternative events.”
However, it seems like at least a thousand people refused to listen to the mayor’s suggestion and decided to attend the event, holding placards that read, “KKK Sashay Away,” “Stop Pretending that Your Racism is Patriotism,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
The counter-protesters outnumbered the Klansmen, beating drums and shouting things like “racists go home” to drown out the chants of “white power” as the police safely escorted the rallygoers in and out of the park. The entire thing lasted for about 45 minutes.
“There are … people who did go to the park, and that is their right, but I can tell you that thousands have chosen not to go to the park and instead join the events that have been planned,” Signer added in his statement. “I am extremely proud of my city. I have said a few times today: This is what democracy looks like.”
Police arrested 22 people, but it is unclear if they were the counter-protesters, the Klansmen or a mix of both. The officers also used three canisters of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protesters as they tried to stop the white supremacists from leaving.
The mayor’s office said, “Two people were treated for heat injuries and one for an alcohol-related issue.”
KKK being escorted out of Jackson Park pic.twitter.com/eTd6Zjplcc— Lauren Berg (@laurenbergk) July 8, 2017
This is not the first time white nationalists have organized a rally in Charlottesville since the city council voted to remove its Confederate monuments back in April.
Alt-right leader and notorious supremacist Richard Spencer held a similar demonstration in May, where a number of KKK supporters gathered around the statue holding burning torches in what looked like a disturbing scene from 1950s.
With the rising incidents of police brutality against people of color and the increase in number of hate crimes, rallies like the one held in Charlottesville paint a troubling picture of the United States.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters