23 arrested as Virginia KKK rally draws hundreds of counterprotesters

23 arrested as Virginia KKK rally draws hundreds of counterprotesters
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Nearly two dozen people were arrested Saturday after a Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville, Va., drew hundreds of counterprotesters.

Klan members rallied to blast the city's plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park in the city's downtown area.

Around 50 Klan members, including some wearing hooded white robes, shouted "white power" at the park as more than 1,000 counterprotesters hurled insults and items such as water bottles, The New York Times reported

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Police declared an unlawful assembly after a large crowd of counterprotesters followed a group of Klan members who said they had come from North Carolina back to their cars, stopping them from leaving. Officers began moving protesters back, allowing the Klan members to leave.

Back at the park, Virginia State Police released three canisters of tear gas to disperse a crowd of protesters, city spokeswoman Miriam Dickler said, according to the Times. 

She said that at least 23 people had been arrested, while at least three had been taken to the hospital — two for "heat-related issues" and another for an "alcohol-related issue."

CNN reported that it was unclear what charges awaited those who had been arrested and whether they were Klan supporters, counterprotesters or from another group.

Some Klan members had said they planned to carry firearms under Virginia's open-carry law.

Removing the statue is one of several steps Charlottesville is taking to reduce the number of Confederate monuments in the city, which prompted a similar demonstration featuring self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer in May.

A member of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK had said that removing the statue was an attempt by the city to "erase the white culture right out of the history books," The Washington Post reported.