On Saturday, riot police in Charlottesville, Va., protected members of the Ku Klux Klan from counterprotesters as they rallied to oppose a proposal to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park.
Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied here on Saturday afternoon in a protest meant to assail the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.

For about a half-hour, around 50 members of the Klan — some wearing hooded white robes — shouted “white power” at Justice Park as more than 1,000 people protested their presence by hurling insults, water bottles and apple cores.

By about 4:25 p.m., the Klan members, who said they came from North Carolina, began to leave and return to their cars. It was then when the trouble intensified.

City officials said a large group of counterprotesters followed the Klan members back to their vehicles and stopped them from leaving. Asked to step aside, the counterprotesters refused, a city spokeswoman said. The police declared an unlawful assembly, and officers began moving the protesters back so the Klan members could leave.

As the police returned to Justice Park, though, the crowd followed, and “there were a number of incidents, including the use of pepper spray by the crowd,” Miriam Dickler, a city spokeswoman, said in a statement.

At one point, the police again ordered the crowd to disperse, but the protesters remained entrenched. Ms. Dickler said the Virginia State Police then released three canisters of tear gas.

“The crowd immediately dispersed,” she said.

Over the course of the day, Ms. Dickler said that at least 23 people had been arrested, and that at least three people had been taken to a hospital — two for “heat-related issues” and one for an “alcohol-related issue.”

In an email, Ms. Dickler said she could not “speak to the affiliations” of those who were arrested.

The rally, and the response to it, put the city on edge, and upset some residents who had hoped the event would end without any problems.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Hawes Spencer and Matt Stevens

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