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23 people arrested at KKK rally in Charlottesville

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Authorities said 23 people were arrested during the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan rally and counter protest in Charlottesville's Justice Park Saturday afternoon.

Ahead of the rally, protesters gathered and Charlottesville Police estimated that more than 1,000 people attended the rally. Officials estimated that 50 members of the KKK attended.

The Loyal White Knights of the KKK, which is based in North Carolina, told WVIR they organized the rally to support Southern heritage.

"They're trying to erase our history, and it's not right what they're doing," Klansman Douglas Barker told the TV station.

Officials said that because of the large crowd and safety concerns, police were needed to escort the KKK members to Justice Park. The group rallied for about 40 minutes before they headed to where their vehicles were parked.

When officials said several people attempted to block their cars, police declared an unlawful assembly around 4:40 p.m.

As police began to move back toward Justice Park, a large crowd followed, WCAV reported.

Police later used pepper spray and fired three rounds of tear gas before the large crowd dispersed.

Police said two people were taken to an area hospital for heat-related issues during the gathering. Another person was transported to a hospital for an alcohol-related issue, WCAV reported.

Virginia State Police, Albemarle County Police Department, University of Virginia Police and the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office were at the ready to provide crowd control.

Statue vandalized ahead of rally 

Robert E. Lee statue vandalized (WCAV)

Robert E. Lee statue vandalized (WCAV)

Ahead of the rally, police were reviewing surveillance footage to determine who vandalized the statue of General Robert E. Lee.

The statue, which was splashed with red paint, was tagged with the words "native land."

The rally comes after members of Charlottesville City Council voted three-to-two in February to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. In April council members voted to sell the statue. The decision was met with a lawsuit and is currently in court

City leaders planned to hold several alternative events to draw attention from the KKK rally saying they have a moral obligation to stand up to hate.

RELATED:  Charlottesville officials ready for KKK rally at Robert E. Lee statue

Tweets from the KKK rally and counter protest