Officials work to prevent repeat of dueling hate rallies

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.