Klan Members Rally Against Removal Of Robert E. Lee Statue In Virginia

The group was guarded by scores of police and outnumbered by hundreds of counter-protesters who waved signs denouncing racism.

(Reuters) — A few dozen Ku Klux Klan mem­bers and sup­port­ers shout­ed “white pow­er” at a ral­ly on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia where they protest­ed against a city coun­cil deci­sion to remove a statute hon­or­ing Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The group was guard­ed by scores of police and out­num­bered by hun­dreds of counter-pro­test­ers who waved signs denounc­ing racism. Anti-KKK pro­test­ers raised their voic­es in chants and shouts, drown­ing out speech­es from the white suprema­cists, live video feeds on social media showed.

There were no ini­tial reports of vio­lence at the ral­ly that last­ed less than an hour. The Klan group that bran­dished Confederate flags and signs with anti-Semitic mes­sages was sep­a­rat­ed from crowds by a ring of fenc­ing and a heavy police pres­ence.

Later police fired tear gas can­nis­ters when some pro­test­ers refused orders to dis­perse. Twenty-three peo­ple were arrest­ed, but offi­cials could not con­firm their affil­i­a­tions.

JONATHAN ERNST /​REUTERS
Members of the Ku Klux Klan ral­ly in sup­port of Confederate mon­u­ments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. (REUTERS/​Jonathan Ernst)

In February, the Charlottesville City Council vot­ed 3 – 2 to remove the stat­ue from the park once named for Lee and make plans for a new memo­r­i­al to remem­ber the south­ern city’s enslaved pop­u­la­tion, The Daily Progress, the local news­pa­per report­ed.

At least one per­son who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Klan ral­ly against the statute removal could be seen with a hol­stered pis­tol.

Confederacy stat­ues and flags have been removed from pub­lic spaces across the United States since 2015, after a white suprema­cist mur­dered nine black parish­ioners at a South Carolina church.

JONATHAN ERNST /​REUTERS
Counter-pro­test­ers shout at mem­bers of the Ku Klux Klan, who are ral­ly­ing in oppo­si­tion to city pro­pos­als to remove or make changes to Confederate mon­u­ments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. (REUTERS/​Jonathan Ernst)

Critics of the mon­u­ments say they fos­ter racism by cel­e­brat­ing lead­ers of the Confederacy in the pro-slav­ery South dur­ing the U.S. Civil War. Supporters say they rep­re­sent an indeli­ble part of U.S. his­to­ry and part of region­al her­itage.

The bronze fig­ures of Lee and his horse, Traveller, atop an oval-shaped gran­ite pedestal has been in the park for near­ly a cen­tu­ry, the city of Charlottesville said.