- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 10, 2017

Religious leaders are plotting an event of their own in response to a Klan Rally expected next month in Charlottesville, Virginia, local media reported Friday.

The Charlottesville Clergy Collective, a group of more than 50 local religious leaders, met this week in order to begin scheduling an event in advance of a Ku Klux Klan demonstration scheduled for July 8 in downtown Charlottesville, WVIR-TV reported Friday.

“This is just in the talking phase right now about having something that stresses peace, and listening, and dialogue, and depolarization, and taking the tension away from that issue. We want to emphasize the goodness here in Charlottesville,” Pastor Liz Emery of New Beginnings Christian Community told the NBC affiliate.

The Loyal White Knights of the KKK, a North Carolina-based Klan affiliate, recently announced plans to assemble outside Charlottesville Circuit Court on July 8 to protest against the City Council’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee.

“They are trying to erase whites and our great culture right out of the history books,” the group wrote on its website.

The Loyal White Knights applied for a permit and would likely be approved, a spokesperson for Charlottesville told The Washington Post this week.

About 100 people are expected to attend the July 8 rally, WSET-TV reported this week. The Charlottesville Clergy Collective, meanwhile, intends to host a rally and other events leading up to the scheduled Klan Rally in response, according to WVIR.

“We’re trying to work it out with our various groups in a peaceful way and we do not want confrontation. We do not want any polarization in our community,” Pastor Emery told WVIR, echoing Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy’s own recent comments.

“I don’t think that we as a community or as a city need to go and have a physical confrontation with them or even get into verbal confrontation with them,” Mr. Bellamy said earlier this week. “The best way for us to be able to show that we are against the hateful language or this free speech in which they want to mask it, is for us to ban and rally together.”

The Charlottesville Clergy Collective describes itself online as “a group of clergy and interested lay persons who gather regularly to discuss and address the challenge of race relations in the Charlottesville and Albemarle region of Virginia.”

“Our mission is to establish, develop, and promote racial unity with the Christian Leadership of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Region through fellowship, partnership and relationship,” their website says.

The Loyal White Knights, meanwhile, have been branded a hate group of watchdogs including the Souther Poverty Law Center – a label it disputes on its own website.

“We do not hate any group of people! However, we do hate some things that certain groups are doing to our race and our nation,” the group says.

The Loyal White Knights made headlines last year for plotting a victory parade following President Trump’s White House win. While the rally ultimately did unfold, an eleventh hour setback caused fewer Klan members to attend than anticipate: Christopher Eugene Barker, the group’s “imperial wizard,” and “grand dragon” William “Quigg” Hagen, the state leader of the group’s California faction, were both arrested that weekend for allegedly stabbing a fellow Klansman hours several hours before their scheduled victory parade.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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