COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — 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.
Black Educators for Justice, based in Jacksonville, Florida, held its 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.
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.
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.
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Lead image: 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. Members of the group were protesting Saturday the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds earlier this month. (Rob Godfrey via AP)