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White nationalists march at Virginia university ahead of 'Unite the Right' rally

Supporters of the Ku Klux Klan wave flags as they hold a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (AFP)
The sleepy US town is bracing itself for further violence and clashes during planned demonstration Saturday

Ahead of a planned demonstration by far-right protesters, a group of torch-toting white nationalists and white supremacists was broken up by police late Friday night on the University of Virginia campus.

According to the Times of Israel, protesters were heard chanting “White lives matter!” and “You will not replace us!” “Jews will not replace us!”

The protesters were met with counter-demonstrators and tear gas. Local police at the scene declared the protest an “unlawful assembly,” according to news site The Hill.

The "Unite the Right” demonstration slated for Saturday was reportedly in response to the state’s decision to remove a statue of infamous Confederate General, Robert E. Lee from the campus.

The rally in the quiet university town was authorized by officials in Virginia, but stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency.

Thousands of far-right supporters, including members of white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan, are expected to turn out for the event.

Be it the Ku Klux Klan, Alt Right or generic white supremacists, these conservatives have found a new cause in defending the confederate flag and monuments in the US south that recall the era of slavery.

For many Americans, they are outdated symbols of racism, and have been mobilizing to have them taken down from public places.

More counter-protesters are expected at Saturday’s planned demonstrations and authorities are bracing themselves for violence.

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (AFP)

The National Guard was also put on high alert, reported the Times.

“I want to urge my fellow Virginians who may consider joining either in support or opposition to the planned rally to make alternative plans,” said the state’s Governor Terry McAuliffe in a statement.

The Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer condemned the protest calling the gathering "a cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance."

"Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here's mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus," he said, according to The Hill.

A pro-Democratic town linked to the university founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, people have voiced strong condemnation for the planned arrival of members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a small white supremacist group based in North Carolina.

Many say they plan to stay away from the park where white supremacists plan to gather.

Others plan prayer services or peaceful meetings designed to show their rejection of racial intolerance.

(Staff with AFP)

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