Several dozen people affiliated with the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a North Carolina-based chapter of the larger national KKK, rallied outside the South Carolina state capitol in Columbia on Saturday in protest of the state government's decision to take down the Confederate battle flag, which had flown outside the location since the 1960s.
Chapter Great Titan James Spears told Politico that the KKK was rallying against "the Confederate flag being took down for all the wrong reasons" and to defend "white culture." But to others present, it seemed like the point of the rally was to goad and antagonize the state just weeks after white supremacist gunman Dylann Storm Roof massacred nine African-American members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17.
Here are some shots from the day's ugly events, which appeared to try the limits of many Columbia residents' patience but was kept under control by the restraint of authorities and counter-protesters.
A live feed from Vice showed that police took security very seriously. Dozens of officers were deployed to prevent the rally from devolving into a brawl or worse. Some law enforcement officials wore standard dress uniforms, while others carried long-barreled firearms and wore body armor.
They had good reason to be worried. This member of the KKK delegation mocked African-American protesters by mimicking a gorilla.
Others shouted white pride slogans, taunted the crowds and denounced South Carolina turning its back on what they saw as its heritage.
As the demonstrators prepared to disperse, one man in the crowd yelled, "I hope y'all get to your cars safely! I just hope. I just hope and pray." Indeed, several fights broke out as Klan members dispersed and counter-protesters followed the chapter members to and surrounded a garage where their cars were parked. Around the same time, anti-KKK protesters began burning multiple Confederate flags.
Though the Klan members' presence and actions were deliberately antagonistic, the rally was not without flashes of humanity and professionalism from those trying to set a better example.
This Getty photo shows a pro-Confederate flag protester breaking out into tears.
There was also a counter-protest by the Black Educators for Justice, a Black Panther affiliate.
Vice also caught the most heartbreaking moment of the rally's aftermath, when they talked to this 10 year-old boy: