Sunday 09 July 2017
By SKY NEWS
The white supremacists say the statue of a Confederate general is part of history but others say it is a symbol of racism.
Ku Klux Klan supporters were met by hundreds of counter-protesters when they marched against the planned removal of a controversial statue in Virginia.
Dozens of white supremacists were trying to save a statue of General Robert E Lee, who led Confederate forces in the US Civil War.
The group, some wearing the white hoods historically associated with lynchings and cross burning, paraded down the streets of the usually quiet university town of Charlottesville.
But anti-Klan protesters were waiting for them.
Officials said there were about 1,000 people at the march and just 50 of those were KKK members.
The two groups were kept apart by a metal barricade and armed police.
About two dozen people were arrested, most of them for failing to leave after the protest.
Mason Pickett, a retired businessman watching the protest, said he didn’t want the statue to go, saying his city had become an “ultraliberal city, even socialistic”.
He added: “Statues can be good history, they can be bad history. You may not like it and you may love it, but it’s history.”
However, Tina Young, a 49-year-old lawyer, said Lee “did represent slavery, he did fight a war against our government which killed thousands and thousands of soldiers, he could have chosen the better side but he didn’t”.
The Ku Klux Klan, which had about four million members back in 1925 but now numbers between 5,000 and 8,000, is one of many far-right groups that has found a cause in defending monuments reminding people of the era of slavery.
But for many others, including the anti-Klan protesters, the monuments should be pulled down, as they are symbols of racism, relics of hatred.
After years of debate, Charlottesville’s councillors voted in February to remove the statue of Lee, but a judge suspended the decision for six months until a court can review the case.
Kristin Szakos, the councillor behind the bid to bring down the statue, said: “Robert E Lee has a lot of admirers across the South, partly because Southern education has taught that he was this noble man who was a gentleman and worked very hard after the war for reconciliation.
“For a lot of people he is also more problematic, especially in the statue where he is depicted in full battle gear, riding against the United States of America.
“We have lots of ways to learn history that aren’t giant statues overlooking our downtowns.”