COLUMBIA, S.C., July 18 (UPI) -- A Ku Klux Klan group and a Black Panther Party affiliate will hold opposing rallies Saturday at the South Carolina State House after the Confederate flag was removed in response to an alleged racially motivated church shooting that left nine dead.
The Florida-based Black Educators for Justice and the North Carolina-based Klan group, Loyal White Knights, are scheduled to protest from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the north side of the capitol Saturday.
The Jacksonville, Fla.,-based Black Educators for Justice, run by James Evans Muhammad, a former director of the New Black Panther Party, expects 300 protesters, including members of the New Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam and Black Lawyers for Justice. The Pelham, N.C.,-based Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan said up to 200 demonstrators from its ranks will attend.
Three churches had been scheduled to hold prayer vigils against racism at the same time, but decided to wait until Sunday after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley asked spectators to avoid the area.
"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 earlier this week. "We want to make the Statehouse a lonely place for them. In doing so, we'll honor those we have lost and continue to make our state stronger."
Lawmakers agreed to remove the Confederate flag from the State House after nine people, at a Bible study at Charleston's Emanuel AME church, were gunned down on June 17. Investigators said Dylann Roof, 21, intended to start a race war and have called the shooting a hate crime. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm.