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KKK, Black Panther rallies in SC still on despite flag’s removal

An honor guard from the State Highway Patrol removes the Confederate flag from the State House grounds for the last time on Friday.
An honor guard from the State Highway Patrol removes the Confederate flag from the State House grounds for the last time on Friday. tglantz@thestate.com

The Ku Klux Klan and a group affiliated with the New Black Panther Party plan on demonstrating Saturday at the South Carolina State House despite the Confederate flag’s removal last week.

Both out-of-state groups will protest at the same time for an hour — from 3 to 4 p.m. — on the north side of the capitol.

Black Educators for Justice — a Jacksonville, Fla, organization run by James Evans Muhammad, a former director of the New Black Panther Party — expects to have 300 people protesting from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Muhammad said members of the New Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam and Black Lawyers for Justice also will attend the rally.

The Pelham, N.C.,-based Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan said it expects up to 200 at its demonstration from 3 to 5 p.m.

A third event also is planned at the State House on Saturday. Trenholm Road United Methodist Church of Columbia will hold a prayer vigil, opposing the Klan rally, on the east side of the Capitol from 3 to 5 p.m.

Muhammad said demonstrators at the Black Educators for Justice protest will not interfere with the Klan rally during the hour that the two groups share the side of the State House facing Gervais Street.

The Black Educators protest wants to call attention to racial inequities despite the Confederate flag’s removal, Muhammad said.

“The flag coming down is not progress. It is an illusion of progress,” Muhammad said. “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.”

The Black Educators for Justice group signed up for its rally 10 days after the Klan registered plans for its pro-flag demonstration, according to forms submitted with state officials.

In Columbia, the Klan plans on “standing up for our Confederate history and all the Southerners who fought and died against federal tyranny,” according to a recording on the group’s phone line. “Our government is trying to erase white culture and our heritage right out to the pages of the history books.”

Efforts to reach Klan leaders Monday were unsuccessful.

State law enforcement officials have stepped up security at the State House since Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag’s removal on June 22.

Several protests, both for keeping and banishing the flag, were held before the banner was taken down Friday. Police made at least one arrest after a fight broke out between rival protestors two weeks ago.

The City of Columbia also has taken steps to avert potential violence at rallies, including those planned Saturday.

The day before the flag came down, City Council approved an emergency ordinance banning firearms within 250 feet of the State House through the first week of August. The ordinance allows police to check people who they think might be carrying concealed weapons.

S.C. lawmakers agreed last week to remove the Confederate flag from the State House, where it had flown for five decades, in the wake of the slaying of nine African-American parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church last month. Authorities have called the shootings a hate crime and arrested a 21-year-old, Columbia-area man who reportedly told friends he wanted to start a race war.

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