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KKK rally in Virginia leads to rival protests and clashes

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Media captionRiot police stood between Ku Klux Klan and its rivals

A march by supporters of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan (KKK) group in the US state of Virginia has been met by hundreds of rival demonstrators.

Dozens of KKK members took part in an authorised march to protest at the planned removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee from Charlottesville.

Lee commanded forces of the pro-slavery Confederacy in the US Civil War.

The marchers, some carrying Confederate flags, were separated from rival groups by metal barricades and armed police.

The KKK supporters were escorted to and from the rally on Saturday by police.

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They were greeted in the university town by large crowds chanting "shame" and "racists go home" shortly after they had gathered at Justice Park.

"Police were deployed to secure access to the park and ensure the safety of all involved," a Virginia State Police spokeswoman said.

Police declared the counter-protests "unlawful" and used tear gas to disperse the crowds. Several people were arrested, local media report.

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Image caption Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in protest at the KKK rally
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A protester is doused with water after being tear-gassed

While some Americans regard the Confederate flag and associated Civil War monuments as part of their Southern heritage, the far right have adopted them as a rallying cause.

Some observers argue that US President Donald Trump's election to the White House re-energised the far right across the US.

In May, a torch-lit rally against the removal of Confederate monuments in Virginia was condemned by a local mayor. More than 100 people attended a counter-protest the following night.

A rally in February 2016 ended with the arrests of 13 people after a violent brawl between members of the KKK and rival demonstrators resulted in a number of stabbings in Anaheim, California.

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