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Tag: confederate flag

Exclusive: Doug Mastriano Posed In Confederate Uniform At Army War College

By Phil Stewart and Jarrett Renshaw

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) -Three years before retiring from the U.S. Army in 2017, Donald Trump-backed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano posed in Confederate uniform for a faculty photo at the Army War College, according to a copy of the photo obtained by Reuters.

The previously unreported photo, released by the War College to Reuters after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, showed Mastriano in a 2013-14 portrait for the Department of Military Strategy, Plans, and Operations, where he worked.

Faculty at the time had been given the option of dressing as a historical figure, people familiar with the photo said. At least 15 of the 21 faculty in the photo opted to appear in regular attire. Although one man wears a trench coat and sunglasses and another carries an aviator's helmet, Mastriano is the only one wearing a Confederate uniform.

Mastriano did not immediately respond to requests for comment made by email and phone. A Reuters reporter attended a Mastriano event on Wednesday to seek comment, but the candidate did not make himself available for questions.

Displays of Confederate symbols can be seen as insensitive to those who view them as painful reminders of racial oppression and the Civil War that saw 11 rebelling Confederate states fight to keep Black people enslaved.

The U.S. military issued a de facto ban on displaying the Confederate flag and has sought to remove segregationist symbols from bases and academic institutions following the murder in May 2020 of George Floyd, a Black man whose killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis triggered protests worldwide.

After Reuters made its formal request for the photo, it was removed from the War College wall where it had hung alongside other annual portraits of faculty groups.

The Army War College (AWC), a premier military higher education institution in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, told Reuters a team had reviewed all art, text, and other images displayed at Carlisle Barracks in 2020, but missed the faculty photo.

"The faculty photo did not get the team's attention; the photo has since been removed because it does not meet AWC values," the college said in a statement.

Asked about the War College photo, a spokesperson at U.S. Army headquarters said: "The Army supports commanders who remove symbols or images that do not comport with Army values."

Confederate symbols and dress have been embraced by white supremacists in the United States, and monuments and flags honoring the Confederacy have been removed from many public areas in recent years.

Pennsylvania plays an outsized role in U.S. politics as a so-called swing state in presidential elections, and Republican Mastriano, who has embraced Trump's stolen election lies, is trailing his Democratic opponent in the governor's race ahead of the November ballot.

It is unclear how the photo might be viewed in Pennsylvania, which played a critical role in the Civil War. More than 33,000 soldiers from Pennsylvania died fighting for the Union, and the state was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, the conflict's bloodiest battle, which ended with a Union victory and inspired President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Mastriano's district, Pennsylvania's 33rd, includes Gettysburg.

Many Americans continue to participate in Civil War battle re-enactments, wearing uniforms from both sides in an effort to preserve U.S. history.

Jenna Ellis, a senior adviser to Mastriano's campaign and former Trump lawyer, said the media was having a "melt down" because Mastriano once posed as a civil war historical figure for a photo.

"And? He has a Ph.D in HISTORY," Ellis wrote on Twitter. "The left wants to erase history. @dougmastriano wants us to learn from it. I invite @Reuters to go on a Gettysburg tour with Doug. You'll learn a lot!"

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Heather Timmons and Daniel Wallis)

Suspected Cop Killer Was Ejected From Stadium For Waving Confederate Flag

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – A man known to police for several run-ins with the law, most recently for waving a Confederate flag at a football game, was arrested as a suspect in the ambush killings of two Iowa officers shot in their patrol cars early on Wednesday, authorities said.

The suspect, Scott Michael Greene, 46, essentially turned himself in to authorities hours after the killings.

Police said he flagged down a state Department of Natural Resources employee on a rural roadway, presented his identification and asked the employee to call emergency-911. Greene was taken into custody without incident by sheriff’s deputies and Iowa state troopers responding to the call.

Police offered no possible motive for what precipitated the attacks, which unfolded shortly after 1 a.m. (0600 GMT) in Iowa’s capital, Des Moines, and its affluent Urbandale suburb.

The body of the first slain officer was found near a stadium where Greene, who is white, was expelled by police last month after waving a Confederate battle flag in front of black spectators while the national anthem was being played at the start of a high school football game.

The two slain policemen were both white, each shot while sitting in his cruiser. Urbandale officer Justin Martin, 24, was found dead first, and the body of Sergeant Anthony Bemino, 38, of the Des Moines department, was discovered 20 minutes later.

Three bullet holes were visible in Bemino’s patrol car in Des Moines, about 2 miles (3 km) from the Urbandale shooting scene.

“These officers were ambushed,” Des Moines police spokesman Paul Parizek told a news conference.

Urbandale Police Chief Ross McCarty said Greene, who has not been formally charged in the crimes, was well known to local police from previous encounters with law enforcement, including the flag-waving incident.

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to interference with official acts in an incident involving police. The same year, he also pleaded guilty to harassment and was placed on probation for a year. Court records did not specify the nature of those underlying offenses.

Greene was charged in 2001 with assault and criminal mischief for allegedly hurling a soda can from the window of a vehicle, but those charges were dismissed.

The Des Moines Register, citing neighbors and court records, reported Green had been living with his mother, who moved out of the house after a recent fight with her son that led to her being charged with misdemeanor domestic abuse.

Wednesday’s shootings marked the latest in a string of attacks on police across the country during the past several months, at a time of intense public debate over racial bias and the use of lethal force in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Some 52 police officers have been fatally shot while on duty in the United States so far this year, up 33 from the same point in 2015, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Greene was being held under guard at a hospital where he was taken after telling officers who arrested him that he was suffering from “some kind of flare-up related to an existing medical condition,” Parizek told reporters.

He did not elaborate on the nature of Greene’s medical condition.

Parizek said charges against Greene could come after police interview him and finish gathering evidence from the scenes. An arraignment was possible as early as Thursday morning, he said.

Details of the flag-waving incident emerged from a 10-minute video clip posted on YouTube last month by a user identifying himself as Scott Greene appearing to document the episode.

In it, a voice, apparently Greene’s, is heard complaining to police that “African-American people” took the flag from him in the stands and “assaulted” him,” adding that he wanted to press charges.

“There were people in the crowd who felt that was offensive, and that he should be removed from the stadium,” McCarty said of the incident.

Police officers shown in the video said he was removed from the stadium because he caused a disturbance.

“You have to understand, in the current social climate that we’re in, when you fly the Confederate flag standing in front of several African-American people, that’s going to cause a disturbance, OK, whether you intended to or not,” a female officer is heard telling the man in the video.

McCarty said high school officials banned Greene from the property following that incident but had been trying to determine how to enforce the ban given that Greene has a daughter attending the school.

“Most of the officers that have been in the city have some understanding of Mr. Greene,” McCarty said. “They’ve taken trips to his house, or delivered service to him. Never to anything of this extent though.”

In a 2007 bankruptcy filing, Greene said he was single with three children.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Julia Harte in Washington, Gina Cherelus, Dave Ingram and Michael Flaherty in New York and Rory Carroll in San Francisco; Writing by Scott Malone and Steve Gorman; Editing by Will Dunham and Lisa Shumaker)

IMAGE: Scott Michael Greene, 46, in photo distributed by Urbandale Police Departments investigators as investigators sought him in murders of two Iowa police officers in separate “ambush-style” killings as they sat in their patrol cars. Courtesy Urbandale Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

2015: Our Very Own Year In Review

As this vexed year draws to a close, we would like to offer profound thanks to our readers for subscribing to The National Memo — and to revisit a few favorite examples of our unique reporting and commentary in 2015.  

We believe it is worth recalling stories that remain highly relevant as the election year approaches because, for instance, there are at least 5 Horrible Ideas The Republicans Will Never Let DieAnd as Barack Obama’s historic presidency enters its final months, we should also remember the 5 Obama Accomplishments & Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened.

As reproductive rights literally came under fire this year, we highlighted 5 Things ‘Pro-Lifers’ Would Support If They Were ‘Pro-Mom’ and noted that If Abortion Foes Were Really Pro-Life, They’d Go After Fertility Clinics TooWe focused on society’s marginalized in  When Police Brutality Goes Viral  and The Lives Of American Othersscrutinized attempts to overturn the rule of law in the name of faith with The Anarchy of Religious Liberty, and addressed many insidious right-wing myths in posts like The Reality Of Refugee Admissions: Yes, The Government Vets Them. 

In a year that saw tens of thousands of deaths by gun violance and still more needless massacres, we questioned the National Rifle Association’s declared commitment to gun safety, showing in Concealed-Carry Crazy: What Gun Lobbyists Mean When They Tout ‘Gun Safety’ that the NRA could scarcely care about anything less. Although the Charleston shooting failed to prompt needed changes in the nation’s gun laws, that tragedy stimulated a long-overdue conversation about public displays of the Confederacy’s symbols, which we joined in  Never Patriotic: The Real Meaning Of The Confederate Flag.

The year began — rather improbably — with a national debate about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, noted in Rise Of The Know-Betters: Just The Facts About Anti-Vaxx. And we took readers back to the harrowing time, not so long ago, When There Was No Vaccine.

Annoyingly, it is impossible to discuss 2015 without acknowledging the political ascendance of Donald Trump, a phenomenon less surprising than it seems when we consider the 5 Reasons Donald Trump Is The Republican Party. Not surprising at all, perhaps, since Pop Culture Warned Us About Donald Trump — Part 1: The Penguin; Part 2: ‘MAD Magazine’Part 3: Lex Luthor; Part 4: ‘The Dead Zone’.

Trump’s few actual policy ideas are ludicrous — as exemplified in An Engineer Explains Why Trump’s Wall Is So Implausible. But the GOP frontrunner is no joke, so we posed  21 Questions For Donald Trump that we doubt he will ever answer. And the media is unlikely to remedy that problem, as we discussed in  5 Ways The GOP Plays The Media And Wins and The Media Needs To Stop Playing Nice With Donald Trump.

On the other side of the partisan aisle,  presidential candidates coped with a far more hostile and uncomprehending press corps, as we noted in Hillary Clinton And The Burden Of Authenticity What Socialism Means To Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton — And You, not to mention the bizarre drama of the Democratic front-runner, the newspaper of record, and, the House Select Committee on Benghazi that kicked off with Straining To Attack Clinton, ‘New York Times’ and Trey Gowdy Deliver Libya Squib and concluded with a famous 11-hour ordeal of testimony on Capitol Hill. 

We trust that you will continue to allow us to entertain and, we hope, enlighten in 2016 — and meanwhile, Happy New Year!

Photo: The New Year’s Eve “16” numerals that are part of the Times Square ball drop. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton 

This Week In Crazy: Hail To The Antichrist!

There’s nothing wrong with Planned Parenthood that a Christian conquistador couldn’t fix. Did you know Obama’s the son of Satan? We’re just getting started here. It’s “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the loony, bigoted, and hateful behavior of the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Rachel Campos-Duffy

2015-07-13-rachel-campos-duffy-cpac-2013-gage-skidmore-640Unless you’re strapped to a chair, lids splayed open, Clockwork Orange-style, and forced to watch Fox News day in and day out, you can be forgiven for missing Outnumbered, the network’s daily exercise is well-dressed, roundtable trolling.

The noontime conservative chatroom is a reliable fount of tone-deaf, ignorant remarks. For instance, you might remember Outnumbered host Rachel Campos-Duffy as the one-woman straw-man factory who blamed ISIS’ successful recruiting tactics on American schools’ emphasis on multiculturalism.

This Tuesday, she had some words of wisdom for the feminists out there: “Make the sandwich, darn it.” Otherwise, she cautions, your marriage will end in tears.

In a discussion spurred by a recent study suggesting that Republicans have happier marriages than Democrats, Campos-Duffy posited that GOP couples’ marital bliss was owed less to politics than to religion:

I know for myself — and I know in the Greek Orthodox Church it’s the same idea of sanctification, that marriage is a sacrament, it’s a holy thing. And my job being married is to get my husband and my kids to heaven with me. And I think that changes the whole perspective.

(Conservative Christian moralist Josh Duggar has certainly proved himself to be a deserving poster boy for the Republican version of sacred, happy, “one man/one woman” marriage.)

So when feminists and liberals get divorced, Duffy exclaims, it’s “because they won’t make that sandwich.”

Check out the video below, courtesy of Raw StoryThen get back in the kitchen.

Via Raw Story

Next: Keith Sullivan

4. Keith Sullivan

Discussing an alleged rape case at a New Hampshire prep school, criminal defense attorney Keith Sullivan said on Fox News this week that text messages between the accused 15-year-old rapist and his alleged victim would prove that “there was no forced rape.”

For someone who passed the bar in 1998, one would think Sullivan would know better than to wade into this Todd Akin-esque morass of redefining rape, which never ends well for conservatives.

In another strange description that appeared to blur the clear line between consensual sex and rape, Sullivan said, “Many women have what’s known as ‘regret sex.’ They feel dirty afterward; they feel guilty.”

In the New Hampshire case, Sullivan said it was “a possibility” that the alleged 15-year-old victim just regretted having sex, and that perhaps being young made her feel guilty.

The boy (now 19) accused of the rape is innocent until proven guilty, of course. That said, Fox News, why should you give legal authorities a platform to accuse women and question their credibility — in this case, that of a 15-year-old girl —by suggesting that, rather than being sexually assaulted, they merely regretted having sex?

Oh right. You’re Fox News, and this is what you do.

Via Media Matters

Continue reading: Bryan Fischer

3. Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer is a… how can we put this politely? A human toxic waste dump; Deepwater Horizon in corporeal form; a bigoted thug with a Bible and a blog, whose rhetoric is so hateful his own hate group had to temporarily disown him.

In the last few months alone, he argued for Americans’ God-given right to capital punishment, blamed a conservative white gunman’s rampage on Obama (of course), and declared the SCOTUS marriage equality ruling to be worse than 9/11 because it “blasted the twin pillars of truth and righteousness into rubble.”

And now he has compared Planned Parenthood to human sacrifice as practiced by the Aztecs.

In a post published on the American Family Association’s blog Thursday, Fischer argues that the “hideous barbarism of Planned Parenthood” is a sign that “the pagan rituals of the Aztecs have returned from the bowels of Hades with a vengeance.” (Culture conflation is the least of this witless cesspit’s sins.)

Cutting brains and hearts out of living babies is as ghoulish, demonic, and horrific as anything done by the benighted pagan tribes of the 16th century. If there ever was a contemporary organization birthed in the nether regions of hell itself, Planned Parenthood is it.

For human cruelty, barbarity, savagery and utter inhumanity, the Aztecs had nothing on the modern priests of paganism who engage in human sacrifice 327,000 times a year in Planned Parenthood clinics, each one a virtual pagan temple.

It is long past time to immediately and completely defund Planned Parenthood, and then investigate it, prosecute it, and put it out of our nation’s misery.

The dishonest, manipulative videos that Fischer cites are part of a long, immoral, and hypocritical campaign to discredit and demolish Planned Parenthood, the national organization that provides basic health services to low-income women (of which abortion accounts for 3 percent).

The careless use of Grand Guignol imagery that Fischer splatters on the page doesn’t make his attacks on women’s health any more compelling; it does somehow make him even more repulsive. We didn’t think that was possible.

Next: Tristan Emmanuel

2. Tristan Emmanuel

Have you checked out lately? It’s the faux-news arm of an anti-LGBT hate group, whose stated purpose is to dish out politics, culture, and commentary that’s “fueled by the Word of Life” and cut free “of the totalitarian left’s barbwire.”

Well, they’ve gotten right to the bottom of this whole Barack Hussein Obama travesty playing out in the Oval Office. Conservatives who believe the president is a secret Muslim, gun-snatching, race-baiting, Kenyan-Sharia-fascist-hippie-peacenik-Nazi, are really missing the point.

The fact is the Commander-in-Chief is really just the Antichrist in disguise.

This truth bomb comes from BarbWire’s director of development, Tristan Emmanuel, who exposes Obama’s secret eschatological agenda in a column subtly titled “The Anti-Christ? Obama’s Disregard About Pastor Saeed Says It All.”

Emmanuel writes:

Obama’s deplorable responses to the atrocities against Christians isn’t just pathetic – it is evidence of a much more insidious evil. Obama, in my estimation is, if nothing else, an anti-Christian bigot who is motivated above anything else with the irradiation of the American Christian zeitgeist.

[…]  What disappoints me is the pathetic criticism and mealy-mouthed manner of conservative critics. I can’t count how many conservative pundits trip over themselves to moderate their words against Obama, calling him “naive”, “wrong-headed,” “misinformed,” and (this one is the best) “out of touch.”


No… he’s totally in touch. He’s not naive. He is thoughtfully evil. He is the modern day Nero (minus the perversion). And like Nero he blames Christians for the uprisings. He obfuscates the obvious evil of his parental religion – Islam. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And what he is doing is systematically destroying the Christian heritage and zeitgeist of America. And if he has his druthers – across the globe.

“You think me extreme?” Emmanuel says, before going on to claim that “Obama embodies all the characteristics of the legendary nemesis.” (Yes, we do think he’s extreme. Most of these fruitcakes are not polite enough to ask us what we think, so kudos to Emmanuel.)

“And frankly,” he concludes, “I wouldn’t surprise me [sic] if he goes down as history’s Anti-Christ of Revelation.”

Via Right Wing Watch

Next: George Zimmerman and Andy Hallinan

1. George Zimmerman and Andy Hallinan

George Zimmerman“This Week In Crazy” received a lovely package this week: a mixed-nut basket of Islamophobia and gun-lovin’ Confederate pride.

Remember George Zimmerman, the night watchman and celebrity boxer who gained notoriety for killing Trayvon Martin? Well, Zimmerman, the Floridian who “stood his ground” by chasing down and killing an unarmed teen, has teamed up with the owner of a “Muslim-free” gun store to sell prints of Zimmerman’s Confederate flag painting in order to pay the store’s way through a civil liberties lawsuit. Whew.

This must be the densest concentration of right-wing crazy ever packed into a single story. (This week, anyway.)

So Zimmerman and the gun store owner, Andy Hallinan, created a mini-documentary (embedded below) and submitted to an interview on Florida radio (samples of which are available below for your listening displeasure, courtesy of Right Wing Watch). It’s best to hear this stuff from the horse’s mouth, however noxious that equine breath may be.

It’s as if every addled, extreme far-right position mated and birthed a conservative Chimera — a fire-breathing freak of nature that lives perennially 50 years in the past, with 10 arms carrying 20 guns, and five pairs of paranoid eyes, each looking over a separate shoulder for someone new to shoot.

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Photo above: Simon Hunt

Four Confederate Flags Left At MLK Center, Church In Atlanta

By David Markiewicz, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)

ATLANTA — Four Confederate flags were placed overnight at Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site Visitor Center in Atlanta, police said Thursday morning.

Police were called to investigate the incident at the historical sites, Officer Kim Jones said.

Rev. Shanan Jones said the church expects to release a statement about the flags later in the day. Homeland Security was also called to investigate, she said.

The flags were placed below a poster that reads “BLACK LIVES MATTER, HANDS UP,” by a garbage can, on the path to the MLK Visitor Center and on the corner near the church. Just after 9:30 a.m., the flags were removed and placed in the trunk of an Atlanta police squad car.

Azuria Beeks, a 17-year-old member of the church, stood solemnly across the street from Ebenezer watching police officers scour the area.

“It’s disgusting,” she said. “They’re living in the past. They want us to fear them. And it’s not working.”

Tracey Jackson, a 45-year-old from Atlanta who lives near the historic church, said: “This breaks my heart. It’s just taking the flag to another level. That flag represents what happened in the past. And too many people are holding on to that past. It just hurts.”

Photo: Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia. Wally Gobetz via Flickr

Late Night Roundup: Obama’s Newest Order

President Obama made a special, full-length appearance on The Daily Show to promote the Iran nuclear deal — but first, he had an announcement to make to Jon Stewart: “I can’t believe that you’re leaving before me! In fact, I’m issuing a new executive order — that Jon Stewart cannot leave the show.”

Obama also discussed how he has adapted to the challenges posed by the modern media environment — and how he has viewed them as an opportunity to explain things in depth, and not just for the old nightly news sound-bites.

Obama and Stewart also talked about the issues of improving care for veterans, at a time of increased demands on the system while it has been committed to do more.

As the two of them discussed the complexities of making progress in government, Obama laid down a marker. “I can say this unequivocally: The VA is better now than when I came into office Government works better now than when I came into office. The economy is better now than when I came into office.” But, he said, it’s still not goo enough for him.

Larry Wilmore looked at this past weekend’s Ku Klux Klan rally at the South Carolina State House — in a segment called “I Can’t Believe This S**t Is Still Going On.”

Larry and the panel also discussed Bill Cosby’s newly revealed deposition from ten years ago.

Seth Meyers talked about the issues of political correctness in comedy — with Margaret Cho, a true expert at pulling off raunchy and ethnic-themed comedy in style.

Flag Dispute Triggers Clash At South Carolina Capitol

By Greg Lacour

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) – At least five people were arrested on Saturday as white-supremacist and African-American groups clashed outside the South Carolina State House, where the Confederate battle flag was removed last week after a half-century, authorities said.

Beginning at noon, a Florida-based group called Black Educators for Justice demonstrated on the north side of the capitol. Tensions rose quickly when a column of about 50 white supremacists, many carrying Confederate flags and one a Nazi flag, marched toward the south steps of the capitol at 3:15 p.m.

Lines of state police separated them from a large crowd that jeered and booed. When the group reached the State House lawn, a scuffle broke out, and police moved in quickly to keep the fight from spreading.

While no further violence broke out, the atmosphere, on a day when temperatures neared 100 degrees, remained tense. Several times, police had to separate people shouting obscenities at one another.

Ambulances took seven people to hospitals, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety said in a statement that provided no information on the severity of the injuries. No police officers were hurt, it said.

Racial and cultural tensions have peaked in South Carolina since the shootings last month of nine African-Americans in a historic Charleston church. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white man charged in the killings, appeared to have been heavily influenced by such symbols as the Confederate battle flag.

Before the rally, a North Carolina-based chapter of the Ku Klux Klan announced that it would demonstrate outside the capitol. But the group that occupied the south side steps, shouting “white power,” carried the banner of a Detroit-based group called the National Socialist Movement Party, which the Southern Poverty Law Center says is “the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi group in the United States.”

The crowd reached about 2,000 people at its peak, said Lieutenant Kelley Hughes of the state Department of Public Safety. Hughes said in late afternoon that authorities were still compiling information about the arrests, charges and injuries.

The Confederate battle flag has been a flashpoint for racial tensions for decades. Its supporters say it is a symbol of Southern heritage, while opponents argue the banner represents slavery and racism. This month, the state legislature voted to remove the flag from the State House grounds, where it had flown since 1961.

In Richmond, Virginia, more than 100 members of Confederate heritage groups converged on the state capitol grounds to blast efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag out of what they say is “political correctness.”

“We’re sick and tired of the PC attacks to eradicate our heritage,” said Susan Hathaway, a founder of the Virginia Flaggers, a group known for erecting massive Confederate flags on Interstate highways in Virginia.

The flag’s meaning was a main topic of conversation – and argument – during the Columbia rallies as well.

Ray Johnson, a 55-year-old white man, waved the Confederate flag during the Black Educators rally and found himself in a heated discussion with Mike Scarborough, a 37-year-old black man.

“It’s a tribute to the people, women, children and animals who died for that cause, whether that cause was right or wrong. And I’ve already told you I think it was wrong,” Johnson told Scarborough.

Afterward, Scarborough said he thinks Johnson is sincere but misguided. “My point to him was, it’s not like you’re carrying photos of the soldiers who died or of a cemetery. You have a symbol of the whole system,” Scarborough said. “You can’t separate the two.”

(Additional reporting by Gary Robertson in Richmond, Virginia; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: A Ku Klux Klan supporter marches as he is flanked by a police officer during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina July 18, 2015. (REUTERS/Chris Keane)

KKK, African-American Group Plan Rallies At South Carolina Capitol

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)