The Ku Klux Klan and a group affiliated with the New Black Panther Party will hold separate and opposing Confederate flag protests at South Carolina's State House on Saturday following the official removal of the flag earlier this month.
The Florida-based Black Educators for Justice, which is run by former director of the New Black Panthers Party James Evans Muhammad, applied for a protest permit 10 days after the North Carolina-based KKK group the Loyal White Knights registered its pro-Confederate flag demonstration, The State reported earlier this week. The two groups will protest simultaneously at the State House in Columbia on Saturday afternoon.
The two rallies are planned at an especially tense moment in the southern US state. On June 17, white gunman Dylann Roof opened fire on a black church congregation in Charleston, killing nine people. In the days following the shooting, six predominantly black churches across the US went up in flames, with arson suspected in at least two cases.
On his website, Roof posted a racist manifesto and photos of himself with the Confederate flag. In the aftermath of the murders, the South Carolina state house lowered two of its flags while the Confederate flag remained at full mast, prompting debate in the US and Canada about the flag's pro-slavery roots and leading to calls for its removal.
On July 9, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill to remove the flag within 24 hours. "I hope it gives those families a little bit of peace," she said of the victims' families. "That has always been my prayer and I hope this allows our state to heal."
KKK member James Spears said the flag was taken down "for all the wrong reasons" and "it's part of white people's culture."
Spears said the rally will include a cross burning, and would be a peaceful protest.
Robert Jones, another KKK member, said Roof had the right idea: "He was heading in the right direction; wrong target. He should have actually aimed at the African-American gang-bangers, the ones who are selling the drugs to white youth, the ones who are robbing and raping every chance they get."
The organizer of the Black Educators for Justice rally, James Evans Muhammad, told The State his group wouldn't interfere with the KKK demonstration.
"The flag coming down is not progress. It is an illusion of progress," he told the news outlet. "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."
During the American Civil War, the Southern and Northern states went to war over the issue of slavery, and the South adopted the Confederate flag as a symbol of their pro-slavery side of the fight.
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