Confederate monuments: Virginia mayor condemns 'KKK-style' rally

A mayor in the US state of Virginia has condemned a torch-lit rally on Saturday night, saying protesters borrowed racist tactics from American history.

Mayor Mike Singer said the rally against the removal of Confederate monuments “harkens back to the days of the KKK” – the white supremacist group.

Protesters are upset over the city’s decision to remove statues honouring the losing side of the US Civil War.

More than 100 people attended a counter-protest the following night.

Several dozen protesters had held the torch-lit rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at about 21:00 local time on Saturday night (01:00 GMT Sunday) to protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee.

The protesters were heard chanting, “You will not replace us”, “Russia is our friend” and the far-right nationalist slogan “blood and soil”.

Mayor Singer said in a statement: “This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instil fear in our minority populations in a way that harkens back to the days of the KKK.”

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is a terror group that arose after the Confederacy was defeated by the Union in the Civil War.

Its tactics included random acts of violence against black people, as well as vandalism, cross-burning, and other forms of intimidation.

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Mr Singer said that, as a community, “we reject this intimidation” adding “intolerance is not welcome here”.

Protesters on Saturday held lit torches for about 10 minutes, local media reported, before a fight broke out and police dispersed the crowd.

The rally was led by Richard Spencer, a fixture of the so-called “alt-right” movement, who was filmed shortly after the election of Donald Trump leading supporters in Nazi salutes as they shouted “Heil Trump”.

“We will not be replaced from this park,” Mr Spencer told the crowd at a different rally held hours earlier.

“We will not be replaced from this world. Whites have a future. We have a future of power, of beauty, of expression,” he said.

Cities across the southern US have been debating the removal of Confederate symbols since a 2015 massacre at a black church in South Carolina by a self-avowed white supremacist gunman.

The issue has entered into the Virginia governor’s election, with Republican candidate Corey Stewart vowing not to remove any Confederate memorials if he is elected.

The city of New Orleans has begun the removal of several monuments. Workers have undertaken the task in the middle of the night, wearing face masks and bulletproof vests, and under the protection of armed police officers.

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