Counterprotest quickly set for planned anti-communist torch march in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (LaVendrick Smith/The Charlotte Observer) Months before an "anti-communist" torch march in uptown Charlotte is scheduled to be held, a counterprotest has been created after people feared a repeat of violence seen at a white nationalist and white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va.

The "Charlotte Against Racism/White Supremacy" protest is scheduled for Dec. 28 in Marshall Park, where the group Anticom is planning a "March Against Communism."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police is aware of Anticom's march and will be in touch with the group ahead of the event, CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said Saturday. The city couldn't confirm on Saturday whether the group had a permit or even if they had applied for one, but expected to have more information on Monday.

Anticom has called on participants to bring torches, gear, flags and guns to the event, where speakers were scheduled to include white nationalist Richard Spencer. The group describes its mission as defending communities against "leftist terrorists and rioters," and plans to march into uptown Charlotte once night falls to "show the size (of) our ranks," according to the announcement.

Jabril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, created the counterprotest Saturday after he learned of Anticom's intentions.

Hough said he was particularly concerned after the August Charlottesville rallies, where a woman was killed and several other people were injured after a man drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters. Two Virginia police officers also died in a helicopter crash.

"We don't want Charlotte to be Charlottesville, and I think we should show a united front," Hough told the Observer on Saturday. "My intention is to call people from different backgrounds together to show a united front against racism and white supremacy."

Hough said the counterprotest will be peaceful and, as of now, the group will stay on the sidewalks near Marshall Park and near the park's statue of Martin Luther King Jr.

News of the planned "March Against Communism" spread quickly over social media Friday night, causing a swift reaction from people who said the group is using anti-communism as a veil for white supremacy.

"Make no mistake — this isn't an 'anti-communist' rally at all. The speakers include prominent neo-Nazis," state Rep. Chaz Beasley, D-Charlotte, said on Twitter.

Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson, of Charlotte, agreed, saying Anticom is a white nationalist group "using a very thin cover."

"Charlotte is a city of kindness and civility and courage and I think Dec. 28 would be a great time to show that," Jackson tweeted.