Ku Klux Klan stages rally at South Carolina state house
Five arrested at protest against removal of slavery-era Confederate flag
A Ku Klux Klan member takes part in a Klan demonstration at the state house building on July 18th, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
Counter protesters shout at Ku Klux Klan members during a Klan demonstration at the state house building on July 18th, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
Ku Klux Klan members take part in a Klan demonstration at the state house building on July 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
Members of the Ku Klux Klan marched on the South Carolina state house on Saturday to protest its removal of the slavery-era Confederate flag, drawing jeers from counter-protesters, media reports said.
There was a heavy police presence in the state capital Columbia as two protests took place - one by the KKK and the other by a number of black rights groups including the New Black Panthers. Five people were arrested. Seven others were brought to hospital by ambulance when scuffles broke out though no major violence was reported, South Carolina newspapers reported.
The Klan members waved the Confederate battle flag as they marched at the steps of the state legislature building, the State newspaper reported. It said it was the first Klan rally outside the State House in nearly 30 years.
Some from the white supremacist group waved a flag with a swastika. KKK members chanted and shouted at an onlooking crowd, but made no speeches, the paper said.
Saturday’s protesters, who were predominantly male, did not don the Klan’s traditional white hoods and robes. Even as they denied being members of a hate group, their message was a relentless one of white supremacy. “This is my country,” one shouted at a group of black onlookers. “My ancestors founded this country!” “Peace is over with,” said William Bader, who said he was a Kentucky resident and the imperial wizard of the Trinity White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
As the KKK group headed for a police-guarded parking garage after their rally, counter-protesters followed and several fights broke out, according to reports.
The Confederate flag was removed from outside the state house on July 10th amid national outrage over the murder of nine black churchgoers by an alleged white supremacist in Charleston in June.
The flag is regarded by many as a bitter symbol of racism and slavery that has no place in modern America. Some in the southern US defend it as a symbol of their heritage.
The shooter in the Charleston massacre, Dylann Roof (21), had been photographed before the attack brandishing firearms and the Confederate flag.
Roof has been indicted on nine counts of murder and is due to stand trial next year.