The Ku Klux Klan and hundreds of other white nationalists came Friday night to Charlottesville, Virginia, ostensibly to object to the city council-ordered removal of a statue of Rebel hero, Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general whose leadership kept the treasonous, pro-slavery secessionists on the Civil War battlefields far longer than likely would otherwise have been the case. But, marching with torches and chanting racist slogans, they didn’t confine themselves to that single twisted cause in the march that took them across the University of Virginia campus. “Jews will not replace us” and “white lives matter” were common shouts.
They have planned a larger “Unite the Right” rally for today, one authorities expect will draw as many as 6,000 people for what the Southern Poverty Law Center says will be the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.”
They will gather at Emancipation Park for the rally, which begins at noon. The counter-protest is expected also to be large. More than 1,000 police and first responders will be on hand, including the largest deployment of Virginia State Police in 30 years will also be on site, Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones said.
The question in the minds of many foes of the hate rally is no doubt whether those in uniform will protect their free speech, civil rights, and personal safety as they do these brazenly racist neo-Confederates.
From the BBC’s Joel Gunter:
The marchers were tightly organised. They gathered after dark at Nameless Park, where they lit their torches and formed into a line, which snaked out of the park and into the University of Virginia campus.
Almost entirely white and male, and in their twenties and thirties, they chanted “You will not replace us”, “Blood and soil”, and “Our streets”.
They marched through the campus to the university’s statue of Thomas Jefferson, where they were met by a small group of counter-protesters. One of the counter-protesters apparently sprayed pepper spray at the marchers and the two groups clashed violently. Police moved in and the marchers extinguished their torches, filling the hot air with acrid smoke.
“The heat here is nothing compared to what you’re going to get in the ovens,” shouted Robert Ray, a writer for white supremacist site Daily Stormer.