In January, a rally in honor of the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina, drew over 6,000 people. The organizer of the event, the South Carolina Heritage coalition, said it was defending "heritage not hate." But the coalition included white supremacists in its ranks.
Joining with groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the League of the South were the Council of Conservative Citizens, a racist group that portrays itself as "mainstream," and Kirk Lyons, a veteran white supremacist who heads the Southern Legal Resource Center.
The rally was meant to counter a call by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for a tourism boycott of South Carolina until the state takes the Confederate flag down from its statehouse.
During a speech at the pro-flag rally, Republican South Carolina State Sen. Arthur Ravenal referred to the NAACP as the "National Association of Retarded People." The flag-waving crowd loudly applauded him.
Despite the enthusiasm of the participants, the Confederate flag rally didn't compare in size to the anti-flag rally held a week later on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day — a holiday that South Carolina alone does not celebrate. Under the auspices of the NAACP, prominent political figures from around the country spoke at a rally that drew more than 40,000 people.