TAMPA, FLORIDA – The Ku Klux Klan plans to hold a pro-Confederate flag rally at the South Carolina Capitol, where a man was arrested on Monday night in a confrontation with anti-flag protesters over a symbol associated with slavery.
The Civil War-era flag has emerged as a flashpoint after a shooting that killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, during a Bible study session.
The suspected shooter, Dylann Roof, 21, who is white, had posed with a Confederate flag in photos posted on a website that also displayed a racist manifesto attributed to him.
The June 17 shootings triggered calls for South Carolina to stop displaying the Confederate flag on the State House grounds in Columbia.
The massacre followed a year of debate over U.S. race relations spurred by the killings of unarmed black men by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri; New York; and Baltimore.
The Loyal White Knights chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, based in North Carolina, said it has gained approval to rally at the State House on July 18.
“We’re standing up for the Confederacy,” James Spears, who holds the title “great titan” for the group, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
He said speakers would address topics including slavery. After the rally, the Klan plans to hold a ceremonial cross-lighting ceremony on private property.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who has called for the flag’s removal, said in a statement that the group was not welcome in the state.
The Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group, is known for its history of violence and intimidation against African-Americans.
During an altercation at the State House late on Monday, Nicholas Thompson, 25, of South Carolina was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after confronting anti-Confederate flag protesters, police said.
About 30 people were protesting the flag when 15 vehicles with pro-flag supporters stopped in the street, authorities said.
The Charleston shooting has sparked a dialogue across the U.S. South over the legacy of slavery and its symbols, centering on the Confederate flag.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said on Tuesday she was appointing a commission to review the Maryland city’s Confederate statues and historical items.
In Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans said it would oppose the “organized witch hunt” by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe to remove the flag from state-issued license plates.