The Klu Klux Klan and the Black Panthers both converged on the South Carolina State Capitol Saturday in dueling rallies over the fate of the Confederate flag.
About 50 members of the Loyal White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan from North Carolina descended on the capitol as an earlier Black Panther rally was ending.
The KKK members waived confederate flags and at least one Nazi symbol and shouted racial slurs as they approached the Black Panther group which was conducting a “Countering the Attack on Black Unity Rally.”
Police initially moved the Black Panthers behind barricades, but were forced to shut the whole thing down an hour later after a fight broke out and someone tore a Confederate flag to pieces.
Police officers at the capitol called for backup when the KKK members arrived and their reinforcements came wearing bulletproof vests, helmets, and camouflage.
Black group and Ku Klux Klan hold dueling rallies on opposite sides of South Carolina Statehouse: http://t.co/i26i4wdH9o— The Associated Press (@AP) July 18, 2015
The two groups converged on the South Carolina State Capitol to protest the Confederate flag.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley ordered the flag removed from its position flying over the capitol building earlier this month following the shooting massacre inside Mother Emmanuel church. For many, the Confederate battle flag was a symbol of racism and hatred in the South.
The Black Panther rally earlier in the day included members of Black Lawyers for Justice and Black Educators for Justice. Shouting, “Black power,” the protestors claimed the removal of the flag was merely an illusion of justice. Although the flag was removed from the capitol, protestors said they were still forced to live through racist policies.
The KKK members, meanwhile, were rallying to protest the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol building. Protestors were angry at the removal of a symbol of their heritage and wanted the flag restored to its rightful place.
Protestors from both sides numbered about 2,000 at the height of the rally, according to officials. Three fights broke out between the different groups and had to be broken up.
Angry clashes in SCarolina as Ku Klux Klan, New Black Panther Party come face-to-face... http://t.co/gnBvMbs5VB— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) July 18, 2015
Governor Nikki Haley told NBC News that South Carolina residents should stay away from the rallies, which were drawing residents from out of state.
“Our family hopes the people of South Carolina will join us in staying 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. We want to make the Statehouse a lonely place for them.”
Several area pastors heeded the governor’s call and postponed a prayer meeting scheduled for Saturday.
[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]