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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Greg Lacour

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) — A Ku Klux Klan chapter and an African-American group plan overlapping demonstrations on Saturday outside the South Carolina State House, where state officials removed the Confederate battle flag last week.

Governor Nikki Haley, who called for the flag’s removal from the State House grounds after the killing of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church last month, urged South Carolinians to steer clear of the Klan rally.

“Our family hopes the people of South Carolina will join us in staying away from the disruptive, hateful spectacle members of the Ku Klux Klan hope to create over the weekend and instead focus on what brings us together,” Haley said in a statement posted to her Facebook page.

The Charleston shooting rekindled a controversy that has long surrounding the Confederate flag. A website linked to suspected gunman Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, contained a racist manifesto and showed him in photos posing with the flag.

Opponents see its display as a painful reminder of the South’s pro-slavery past, while supporters see it as an honorable emblem of Southern heritage.

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a Pelham, North Carolina-based chapter that bills itself as “the largest Klan in America,” expects about 200 people to attend its demonstration, planned from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Calls to the chapter, one of numerous unconnected extremist groups in the United States that have adopted the Klan name, were not immediately returned.

The Klan, long known for its conical hats and cross burnings, traces its roots back to the years after the South’s defeat in the American Civil War of 1861-65. In general, modern chapters are stridently opposed to racial integration.

A voice message on the chapter’s phone line said its members are “standing up for our Confederate history and all the Southerners who fought and died against federal tyranny. Our government is trying to erase white culture and our heritage right out of the pages of our history books.”

A Jacksonville, Florida, group called Black Educators for Justice expects a crowd of about 300 for its rally, planned for noon to 4 p.m. The group is run by James Evans Muhammad, a former director of the New Black Panther Party.

The Black Educators group wants to highlight continuing racial inequality, which Muhammad says endures despite the Confederate flag’s removal.

“The flag coming down is not progress. It is an illusion of progress,” he told the State newspaper in Columbia.

Muhammad said his group would not interfere with the Klan rally during the hour the two groups occupy the north side of the Capitol building.

(Reporting by Greg Lacour; Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Beech)

Photo: A tattoo on the knuckles of a Klansman reads “Love” as he participates with members of the Nordic Order Knights and the Rebel Brigade Knights, groups that both claim affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, in a cross lighting ceremony on a fellow member’s property in Henry County, Virginia, August 9, 2014. (REUTERS/Johnny Milano)

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.