By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON D.C., United States — Over one thousand protesters met the Ku Klux Klan in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia as the white supremacist group prepared for a march through the town protesting the city’s decision to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. The anti-KKK protesters outnumbered the KKK members, and held signs that denounced racism and promoted racial tolerance.
Members of the Loyal White Knights chapter of the KKK, which is based in Pelham, North Carolina, wore robes, hoods, and carried the Confederate flags. One member carried a poster that read “Stop the cultural genocide of white people!” while others shouted “white power.” The organization claimed that the removal of the Lee statue is part of a wider effort to eliminate white history. One member, James Moore, believes that “[t]hey’re trying to erase the white culture right out of the history books.”
In response to the rally, city officials organized events in other parts of the city and encouraged city residents to stay clear of the KKK members. However, many residents still showed up at the rally to make sure their voices were heard. A professor at the University of Virginia who is among those calling for the removal of the Lee statue, Jalane Schmidt, commented that it was important for her to be at the rally “because the Klan was ignored in the 1920s and they metastasized.” Schmidt emphasized that the KKK needs to know “that their ideology is not acceptable.”
Over one hundred police officers were at the rally to help maintain order. After the rally concluded, officers led several people away in handcuffs and asked large groups to disperse. Officers also declared the counter-protesters to be an “unlawful assembly” and used gas canisters to coerce them out of the area.
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