More than a thousand demonstrators flooded Charlottesville Virginia’s downtown Saturday in a display of defiance against a rally by Ku Klux Klan members. Rival protesters jeered and booed as around 50 Klan members, some wearing hoods and waving Confederate Flags walked through the streets to gather at Justice Park, escorted by police in riot gear.
The local police used tear gas to help disperse the crowd, and 22 people were arrested, city officials said.
The Loyal White Knights of the KKK, headquartered in North Carolina were protesting the “the ongoing cultural genocide… of white Americans,” according to James Moore, one of the Klan members. “They’re trying to erase us out of the history books,” he said.
James Moore reported to the Washington Post, the group was protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. A court injunction has put the statue’s removal on hold until a November hearing.
City officials had urged locals to stay away from the rally, saying that confronting the Klan members would only provide them with undue attention. According to the Daily Progress, the Robert E. Lee statue was vandalized on Friday night, adding to the city’s tensions. More than one hundred police officers were present at the rally site Saturday afternoon.