Watch CBS News

KKK, Black Justice group clash in S.C. capitol

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Hundreds of people taunted each other on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse during separate rallies staged by two groups from outside the state. There were numerous reports of fights and other scuffles, although police have released few details of those kinds of incidents.

Black Educators for Justice, based in Jacksonville, Florida, held a rally Saturday on the north side of the Statehouse, where the Confederate flag was removed earlier this month. Later, the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally on the opposite side of the building to protest the flag's removal.

The S.C. Department of Public Safety estimated the crowd at approximately 2,000. Spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli said five people were arrested and 23 people needed medical attention. A statement from Richland County Emergency Service said many of the 23 were treated for heat, but no specific number was given.

The two groups were involved in several skirmishes during the rallies, according to The Washington Post. At one point, police stopped a group of protesters from burning a Confederate flag that they had seized.

south carolina ku klux klan confederate flag
Protestors against the Ku Klux Klan tear a Confederate flag during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Several people carried the Confederate flag along the margin of the crowd at the black educators rally. About 40 members of the KKK marched up the Capitol steps and waved flags. Many in the crowd jeered.

Two men who were involved in a scuffle were led away by police. During the rallies, Leroy Smith, director of the S.C. Department of Public Safety and who is black, was seen helping a white man wearing a T-shirt bearing a swastika get out of the heat.

leroy smith south carolina nazi
In this photo provided by Rob Godfrey, police officer Leroy Smith, left, helps a man wearing National Socialist Movement attire up the stairs during a rally Saturday, July 18, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Rob Godfrey via AP

Gov. Nikki Haley earlier in the week urged residents to avoid the KKK rally, adding that doing so would honor the nine people shot and killed at a predominantly black church in Charleston last month. Haley has taken a lead role in removing from state property the Confederate symbol, which first began to see widespread use in Southern states during the Civil Rights movement last century.

Confederate flag removed from South Carolina Statehouse 02:19

Even more rallies and protests are planned for this weekend, and security is still on high alert, as it has been for weeks, reports CBS affiliate WLTX in Columbia.

Last month, bloody clashes also broke out near the statehouse during rallies for and against the banner.

"The blood on my teeth, the blood on my hands is no comparison to the Southern blood that runs through my veins," apparent fight participant Joe Lindler told CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

He was hit during the brawl and said "racism has no part" in the flag.

"I'm gonna tell you one thing, I ain't sitting down; this'll just make me walk taller," he said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.