Twenty-three people were arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday in protest of the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which was vandalized overnight, a city spokesperson confirmed to NBC's affiliate WVIR.
"They're trying to erase our history, and it's not right what they're doing," Klansman Douglas Barker told WVIR.
About 50 people were dressed in Klan robes at the rally, officials told WVIR. Charlottesville Police Major Gary Pleasants said about 200 officers were on the scene. In addition to the 23 people arrested, three were taken to the hospital to be treated — two for heat-related issues and one related to alcohol.
"I just want to say that they [the Klan] represent the past, we represent the future," Lacy MacAuley, a counter-protester, said.
The Daily Progress reported Saturday that red paint was splashed on the base of the statue in Emancipation Park, which had been known as Lee Park until the city council changed the name last month.
Black graffiti was sprayed on the statue overnight Friday as well.
A worker was making repairs Saturday morning.
The statue became an issue in this year's gubernatorial election after Republican Corey Stewart used it as a rallying point. He decried calls for removal of the statue as misguided political correctness.