The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan’s (KKK) Pelham, North Carolina, chapter reserved the Statehouse Grounds in South Carolina for a permitted rally from 3-5 p.m. Saturday. The NC chapter of the KKK, one of the more active Klan groups, organized the event less than one week after South Carolina legislature decided to bring down the Confederate Battle flag from the Statehouse grounds following the racially motivated mass shooting of nine church members at the historic AME church in Charleston.
On Saturday, about 50 members of the NC Ku Klux Klan and the National Socialist Movement (a white supremacist, homophobic and antisemitic political party) gathered outside the state capitol carrying large Confederate flags and Nazi symbolism, while several hundred opposing protesters, which included members of the Black Lawyers for Justice, Black Educators for Justice, Columbia community members and the New Black Panther Party held their own rally ahead of the Klan under the banner: “Countering the Attack on Black Unity Rally.”
Permitting the North Carolina chapter of the Klu Klux Klan to rally in South Carolina in the wake of recent events in Charleston was set to be a confrontation from the start. Tensions were very high all day and when Klan members, who arrived mostly in one group under heavily armed police escort the verbal battles that led to physical confrontations began. During the brief KKK rally every dehumanizing racial slur against people of color that could be thought of was yelled in the faces of the Columbia residents who came to tell the Klan that they were not welcome in their town. Klan members also made statements about their hate for Jewish people and made a display of stomping the Israeli flag in the ground.
At least five arrests were made and several fights broke out during the demonstrations and more afterward as Klan members were also escorted off the Statehouse grounds by heavily armed police. The KKK rally was ended early due to public safety concerns and despite the armed police protection everyone at the counter rally followed the Klan members as they tried to make their way to their vehicles.
Most of the Klan members were escorted to a nearby parking garage where a stand-off began. Police formed a cordon around the entrance to the parking garage to protect Klan members and block several hundred people who had followed. Clearly without the full cooperation of law enforcement and near unheard of protest policing behavior that completely facilitated the Klan rally, it would have never happened. Klan members would have never even made it to the Statehouse grounds much less have been allowed to spew the same racist hate speech that fueled the terrorist actions of the Charleston 9 murderer Dylan Roof just one month ago. A sharp contrast to common police practices that do their best to dissolve any type of protest that we have witnessed time and again. Media below documents events.
Confrontations during the rally.
Two hours of raw footage of events as they happened.
— Regan Freeman (@ReganFreeman) July 18, 2015
Man arrested when a fight broke out.
Man being taken to the ground at gunpoint for pulling a knife. The beginning of this video you can see the man holding the knife behind his back in preparation to use it.
— Max Blau (@MaxBlau) July 18, 2015
KKK being escorted out of the rally. Vice also caught the most heartbreaking moment of the rally’s aftermath, when they talked to 10 year-old Hayden Cunningham at the police cordon near the parking garage who burst into tears when asked “what do you think of all this?” Video of one of the Klan members who didn’t park in the garage being chased out of town by Columbia residents who threw stones at his vehicle.
Fighting as KKK members try and make it to their vehicles.
Video of the same fight from the other direction.
One of the KKK members who was escorted out of the parking garage wrecked his vehicle while yelling slurs out the window at the following group.
Man being arrested for reasons unknown.
Another man being arrested for reasons unknown.