Ex-KKK member who marched in Charlottesville denounces hate groups
© MSNBC

A former leader of the Ku Klux Klan who participated in the white nationalist march last year in Charlottesville, Va., has denounced hate groups.

Ken Parker was once a grand dragon of the KKK and wore the uniform of the National Socialist Movement, an American neo-Nazi group, NBC News reported Thursday.

“I want to say I’m sorry. I do apologize,” Parker said in Jacksonville, Fla., after renouncing his white supremacist beliefs. “I know I’ve spread hate and discontent through this city immensely — probably made little kids scared to sleep in their own beds in their own neighborhoods.”

He said he needed to “stand up” for his white race last year when he attended the violent "Unite the Right" rally that ended in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer.

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“It was thinly veiled [as an effort] to save our monuments, to save our heritage,” Parker told NBC News about the rally. “But we knew when we went in there that it was gonna turn into a racially heated situation, and it wasn't going to work out good for either side.”

At the protest, Parker met filmmaker Deeyah Khan, who was working on a documentary about hate groups called “White Right: Meeting the Enemy.”

Inside a Charlottesville parking garage, Parker told NBC News that he was touched by Khan’s kindness.

“I pretty much had heat exhaustion after the rally because we like to wear our black uniforms, and I drank a big Red Bull before the event. And I was hurting and she was trying to make sure I was OK,” Parker said.

Parker said he began to have doubts about his neo-Nazi beliefs the more time he spent with Khan.

“She was completely respectful to me and my fiancée the whole time,” he said. “And so that kind of got me thinking: She’s a really nice lady. Just because she’s got darker skin and believes in a different god than the god I believe in, why am I hating these people?”

NBC says Parker then approached an African-American neighbor who was having a cookout near his apartment complex’s pool.

William McKinnon III is a pastor at All Saints Holiness Church and the two began to meet up, including McKinnon inviting Parker to Easter services.

The former KKK leader stood before a predominately African-American church on April 17 and embraced their community.

“I said I was a grand dragon of the KKK, and then the Klan wasn’t hateful enough for me, so I decided to become a Nazi — and a lot of them, their jaws about hit the floor and their eyes got real big,” Parker told NBC News. “But after the service, not a single one of them had anything negative to say. They’re all coming up and hugging me and shaking my hand, you know, building me up instead of tearing me down.”

Parker soon after was baptized by McKinnon in the Atlantic Ocean.

He is now in the process of getting his racist tattoos — a swastika, a Klan symbol and a Confederate flag that reads “white pride" — removed. 

“You can definitely get out of this movement. I mean, I was into that so much — it was my life, for six years. I never thought I would get out,” Parker said. “Get out. You’re throwing your life away.”

Parker’s story was published days before the first anniversary of the Charlottesville rally.

White nationalists are planning multiple events in Charlottesville and Washington, D.C., with hundreds of protesters and counterprotesters expected to attend the 2018 “Unite the Right” rally in the nation’s capital.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Wednesday declared a state of emergency for the state and the city of Charlottesville in anticipation of the date.