Officials work to prevent repeat of dueling hate rallies

FILE - In this Friday, July 10, 2015, file photo, an honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol lowers the Confederate battle flag as it is removed from the Capitol grounds in Columbia, S.C. Legions of people clapped, cheered and cried as South Carolina lowered the Confederate battle flag. But as the euphoria of the moment faded, questions over what exactly that accomplished for race relations in the United States, other than the elimination of a painful symbol of the past, began to arise. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Lawmakers in South Carolina want to regulate events at the state Capitol in an effort to avoid the chaos of last July, when opposing hate groups held overlapping rallies and overwhelmed a massive police presence.

Since a bill requiring an event permit failed amid First Amendment concerns in April, a legislative panel is pursuing crowd control through regulations. Drafted rules have been submitted to the Statehouse Committee.

Its chairman, Sen. Harvey Peeler, says it’s possible to protect and defend both the First Amendment and the public. He contends it defied common sense for the state to schedule overlapping KKK and New Black Panthers rallies.

Meanwhile, two pro-Confederate flag groups have received the OK to gather on the Statehouse’s front lawn on the July 10 anniversary of the battle flag’s removal.

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