Charlottesville — Supporters of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday to protest the planned removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee, who oversaw Confederate forces in the US Civil War.
The Klan marchers were met by hundreds of jeering counter-protesters in this quiet university town, where the protest by the notorious white power group was authorised by officials in Virginia on free speech grounds.
Dozens of marchers – some carrying Confederate flags, a handful in the distinctive white hood worn by Klan members – paraded past hundreds of people shouting “racists go home!” and other chants.
The two groups were separated by a metal barricade and a phalanx of armed police.
Critics say the far right, both here and across the United States, has been energised by Donald Trump’s election to the presidency.
Be it the Ku Klux Klan, the alt-right or generic white supremacists, these conservatives have found a new cause in defending the Confederate flag and monuments in the US South that recall the era of slavery.
They are outdated, awful symbols of racism for many Americans, who are mobilising to have them taken down from public places.
Anti-Klan protesters in Charlottesville got an early start overnight, throwing red paint on the bronze equestrian statue of the sabre-wearing Confederate general. City workers were scrubbing the paint off early on Saturday.
Watching the scene, Mason Pickett, a 60-ish retired businessman, said he regretted the decision by Charlottesville – which he said had become an “ultraliberal city, even socialistic” – to remove the statue.
“Statues can be good history, they can be bad history – you may not like it and you may love it, but it’s history,” he said.
But Tina Young, a 49-year-old lawyer, said it was past time to remove signs of the state’s Confederate past. Virginia and other Southern states had had plenty of time to do so, she said.
“In Washington, DC, they have put up a Martin Luther King statue, they have an Afro-American museum, they have a Jewish museum, they made the public space more fair and balanced,” she said.
As to Robert E Lee, she added, “he did represent slavery, he did fight a war against our government which killed thousands and thousands of soldiers, he could have chosen the better side but he didn’t”.
City officials said about a thousand people were present at the march, of whom about 50 were KKK members.— AFP.