Tensions were sky high at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday, when the Black Panthers and the Ku Klux Klan held competing rallies on the capitol grounds. Five were arrested and seven taken to hospitals with injuries during the melee, which came eight days after the Confederate flag was permanently taken down.
"The Confederate flag does not represent hate. A lot of Americans died for that flag," one member of the KKK said, according to a local ABC News affiliate. Unsuprisingly, the Panthers felt differently, at one point grabbing a flag and tearing it the shreds.
State police created a physical barrier between the opposing sides, but couldn't prevent tension from escalating and violence from breaking out. Racial slurs were volleyed back and forth between the sides, with the Panthers chanting "Black power" with raised fists and the Loyal White Knights of the KKK giving Nazi salutes with shouts of "white power."
Authorities ultimately shut down the rally, which drew around 2000 people, an hour early, but by then, plans of a cross-burning organized by the KKK were already set for nightfall.
PROFILE OF A KLANSMAN
Saturday's rally was organized, according to Vice, by Christopher Barker of North Carolina. Going by the pseudonyms James Spears and Robert Jones, Barker has been vocal in his support of Emanuel AME shooter Dylann Roof. As the founder of the Loyal White Knights, his tactics and background are so deplorable that even his fellow Klan members have dissociated themselves.
According to Craig Blitzer, the district attorney of Rockingham County, North Carolina where Barker lives, the klansman has an extensive rap sheet that includes malicious arson, domestic violence and assault with a deadly weapon. "We have long been aware of Chris Barker," said Blitzer. Barker had been ordered to stay away from Klan activities as a condition of his parole, so he did not attend the rally in Columbia on Saturday, but was instrumental in its planning with the help of his wife. He founded the LWK after being expelled from at least three other KKK organizations.
"To be honest, what they're doing just makes me want to walk away from the Klan in some ways," said the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Frank Ancona, who, like many other Klan members, took issue with Saturday's demonstrations over the Confederate flag. "It just goes against everything I've worked for. The image people are going to have in their mind when they think of the Klan after the South Carolina Confederate flag demonstration is those are a bunch of nutcases."
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(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
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