POLICE defending a Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, attacked anti-racist protesters with tear gas and arrested several of them.
Members of the white supremacist cult were demonstrating against the city council’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee and rename the public space it stands in “Emancipation Park.”
The removal has been halted by a court injunction pending a hearing in November. Leading figures in the pro-slavery Confederacy during the American civil war have cult status among the US far right and “culture wars” over monuments to their memories and use of the Confederate flag are a growing issue.
Virginia allows guns to be carried in public and some of the white-robed KKK marchers carried arms as they marched to the site under police escort.
Hundreds of counterprotesters surrounded the police cordon, shouting: “Shame!” and “Racists go home!” Unlike the KKK march, the counterprotest was not authorised and police laid into the demonstrators, saying their presence was “unlawful.”
Churches and community groups had put on concerts, activities and prayer sessions elsewhere in the city on the day, calling on people to ignore the far-right protest.
Mayor Michael Signer said he would “urge people not to take this totally discredited fringe organisation’s putrid bait at all.”
But Showing Up for Racial Justice demonstrator Grace Aheron disagreed, saying: “We’ve watched the rise of many people, including our current president, who hold many similar views. It’s enraging that the city would give a permit to a known terrorist organisation.”