Angry clashes have erupted between members of the Ku Klux Klan and the New Black Panther Party as both groups rally at the South Carolina statehouse.
The white supremacists came out in force on Saturday afternoon to condemn the governor’s decision to remove the Confederate Flag due to its associations with racial hatred.
Countering their demonstration, around 300 people with links to the New Black Panther Party marched in the name of racial equality – calling on politicians to do more than simply bring down a flag.
It is the latest clash in Columbia, SC, following the racist shooting of nine black churchgoers at the hands of 21-year-old pro-Confederacy Dylann Roof last month.
The attack prompted nationwide calls for leaders to condemn the Confederate flag as a symbol of racial hatred.
Many of the southern states, where the flag remains prominent, agreed and moved the flag to a museum – notably including South Carolina.
But hitting back, around 300 Ku Klux Klan members applied for a rally permit to swarm the Capitol grounds on Saturday afternoon.
‘They cannot punish everyone for what one man did,’ Amanda Barker, Imperial Officer of Loyal White Knights, told NBC News.
An automated message on the Loyal White Knights’s answering machine said: ‘We will be at the statehouse in Columbia, S.C., standing up for our Confederate history and all the southerners who fought and died against federal tyranny.
‘Our government is trying to erase white culture and our heritage right out of the pages of history books.’
Meanwhile Black Educators for Justice leader James Evans Muhammad, a former director of the New Black Panther Party, had his own gripes with the historic move.
‘The flag coming down is not progress. It is an illusion of progress,’ Muhammad told The State. ‘Ever since slavery started in America, whites have the privilege of freedom that blacks in South Carolina do not have.
‘White privilege had stuck a knife in black people back in South Carolina and America as a whole. You can’t pull a 12-inch knife out two inches and call that progress.’