Klan members rally against removal of General Lee statue in Virginia

(Reuters) - A few dozen Ku Klux Klan members and supporters shouted "white power" at a rally on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia where they protested against a city council decision to remove a statute honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The group was guarded by scores of police and outnumbered by hundreds of counter-protesters who waved signs denouncing racism. The anti-KKK protesters raised their voices in chants and shouts, drowning out speeches from the white supremacists, live video feeds on social media showed.

There were no initial reports of violence at the rally that lasted less than an hour. The Klan group that brandished Confederate flags and signs with anti-Semitic messages was separated from crowds by a ring of fencing and a heavy police presence.

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Klan members rally against removal of General Lee statue in Virginia
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Klan members rally against removal of General Lee statue in Virginia
Members of the Ku Klux Klan face counter-protesters as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters shout at members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Members of the Ku Klux Klan, standing near a tomato and and an orange that had been thrown at them by counter-protesters, hold a sign as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters shout at members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Protesters direct obscene gestures towards members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in support of Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Members of the Ku Klux Klan openly wear firearms as they rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A counter-protester is detained as members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A woman who supports Confederate symbols and monuments is held by her husband (R) as she exchanges words with a counter-protester as they wait for members of the Ku Klux Klan to rally in support of Confederate monuments, such as the statue of General Stonewall Jackson behind them, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Police, clergy and free speech observers protect a man wearing a Confederate flag as a cape after he was surrounded by counter-protesters prior to the arrival of members of the Ku Klux Klan to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters help a man affected by pepper gas as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police detain a counter-protester during the aftermath of a rally by members of the Ku Klux Klan in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JULY 08: A Ku Klux Klan member is escorted out of Justice Park after a planned protest by the Klan on July 8, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The KKK is protesting the planned removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, and calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JULY 08: Officers clash with counter protestors after the Ku Klux Klan staged a protest on July 8, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The KKK is protesting the planned removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, and calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
A protester has his eyes washed after being tear gassed by police following a Ku Klux Klan rally, calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police are covered in tear gas used on counter-protesters following a Ku Klux Klan rally, calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Ku Klux Klan looks on during a rally, calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Ku Klux Klan carries a pistol during a rally, calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Ku Klux Klan hold a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017 to protest the planned removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, who oversaw Confederate forces in the US Civil War. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Ku Klux Klan looks on during a rally, calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Ku Klux Klan, with the word 'Love' tattooed on his fingers, holds a flag during a rally, calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
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In February, the Charlottesville City Council voted 3-2 to remove the statue from the park once named for Lee and make plans for a new memorial to remember the southern city's enslaved population, The Daily Progress, the local newspaper reported.

At least one person who participated in the Klan rally against the statute removal could be seen with a holstered pistol.

Confederacy statues and flags have been removed from public spaces across the United States since 2015, after a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church.

Critics of the monuments say they foster racism by celebrating leaders of the Confederacy in the pro-slavery South during the U.S. Civil War. Supporters say they represent an indelible part of U.S. history and part of regional heritage.

The bronze figures of Lee and his horse, Traveller, atop an oval-shaped granite pedestal has been in the park for nearly a century, the city of Charlottesville said.

Torch-wielding white nationalists rallied in the college town that is home to the University of Virginia's flagship campus in May to protest the move. A legal battle is going on over the stature's removal and no date has been set.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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