Members of the Ku Klux Klan descended on a Pride event in Florence, Alabama on Sunday (June 11) in order to “stand up” for their beliefs.

The Pride march was attended by 100-200 people, while a small group of white nationalists, some dressed in KKK robes, stood close to the march in protest.

Benjamin Newbern, executive director of the Equality Shoals advocacy group and one of the organisers of the event, told AL News he was “shocked an embarrassed” by the group’s attendance. “It was just crazy,” Newbern said. “This was a huge day for the LGBTQ community with the fact that nothing like this had happened before with members of the LGBTQ community marching in the streets here.

“Hate has always been here but it reared its ugly head yesterday to show that it’s still around.”

In a video posted from the event, the protesters said that they attended to “stand up” for their Christian beliefs. “We do not allow this in Alabama,” said the man, who wore a shirt with a Confederate flag stitched on the arm. As well as standing up for his Christian beliefs, the protester also said that he is standing up for his “white brothers and sisters”, in racist rhetoric typical of white nationalists.

“We’ve had enough of it being shoved down our throats forcefully,” he said, probably referring to the increased visibility and acceptance of LGBT+ people across the US. “We’re out here to show love and that this is an abomination,” he continued, contradicting himself within a matter of words.

The protest was peaceful and there were no confrontations between the marchers and the KKK, but the response of the police who were present at the event has come under fire. The police released a statement after the event reading: “Two sides, opposing views. Peaceful rally. Our duty and honor to provide security and ensure the safety of both groups.” In another statement, the police department used the hashtags “#equalitymarch2017 #defendersoftheconfederatecross.”

Many were disgusted that the Florence police treated the two groups as two sides of a debate – rather than characterise them separately as a group of peaceful Pride marchers who were protested by a selection of racists who advocate for terrorism.

Will Cross, a member of the Equality Shoals board, said: “That’s very odd because that group to me is based on hatred and is like a terrorist group to me. I don’t think there should be an equivalence there because we paid and got permits and hired police officers, and they just kind of showed up trying to scare people.”

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