Update, July 19, 2015, 2:00 a.m.: At least five people were arrested Saturday as Klu Klux Klan members and black American groups clashed outside the South Carolina Statehouse. Around 50 members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan gathered to protest the July 10 removal of the Confederate flag, reports the State. The white supremacists were protected from jeering and booing crowds by a line of state police. But a brief fight broke out on the Statehouse lawn.
The KKK members arrived just as, on the other side of the Statehouse, the Black Educators for Justice were ending a rally. At its peak, the crowd reached around 2,000 people, who were “fairly split between black and white protesters and observers, many toting cameras to document the spectacle,” notes the State.
Original post, July 18, 2015 at 12:50 p.m.: A Ku Klux Klan group and an affiliate of the New Black Panther Party both planned rallies for Saturday at the South Carolina Statehouse a week after the Confederate flag was removed from the grounds. Members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a Pelham*, North Carolina–based branch of the racist group, said it expects around 200 people to attend the rally, according to Reuters.
In a separate demonstration, the Black Educators for Justice and their allies will be marching to call attention to continuing racial inequalities that can’t be solved by simply removing a flag. “The flag coming down is not progress. It is an illusion of progress,” James Evans Muhammad, a former director of the New Black Panther Party that now runs the Black Educators for Justice organization, said. “Ever since slavery started in America, whites have the privilege of freedom that blacks in South Carolina do not have. White privilege had stuck a knife in black people back in South Carolina and America as a whole. You can’t pull a 12-inch knife out two inches and call that progress.” Members of the New Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, and Black Lawyers for Justice all plan to attend, and organizers say they will not interfere with the KKK demonstration that will take place on the opposite side of the Statehouse, reports the State.
A voice message in the Loyal White Knights answering machine confirmed the rally, saying the group will be “standing up for our Confederate history and all the southerners who fought and died against federal tyranny. Our government is trying to erase white culture and our heritage right out of the pages of history books.” Amanda Barker, Imperial Officer of the group said authorities want to “punish everyone for what one man did.”
Coming almost three decades since the KKK last marched on the South Carolina Statehouse, the Saturday rally could amount to “a pivotal test for today’s KKK, which is less a cohesive organization than a collection of disjointed mini-Klans that pop up and die off,” notes NBC News. As many as 5 million Americans were on the Klan rolls 90 years ago but now the racist group “is struggling to find its place within the contemporary white supremacist movement’s think tank-style organizations and sophisticated-looking websites.”
In a statement posted on Facebook, Gov. Nikki Haley called on South Carolinians to stay away “from the disruptive, hateful spectacle members of the Ku Klux Klan hope to create over the weekend and instead focus on what brings us together.”
*Correction, July 20, 2015: This post originally misspelled Pelham as Pelhma.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin agreed, writing on Twitter that the public should simply ignore the KKK march.