Washington (AFP) - Virginia's governor on Friday urged people to stay away from a planned weekend rally of far right and white supremacist groups in the university town of Charlottesville.
The National Guard has been put on alert because of the risk of violence during Saturday's "Unite the Right" rally. Counter demonstrators are also expected.
"I want to urge my fellow Virginians who may consider joining either in support or opposition to the planned rally to make alternative plans," Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement.
Thousands of white nationalists, including supporters of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group, and anti-fascist activists are expected to turn out in Charlottesville, a sleepy town planning to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, who led Confederate forces in the US Civil War.
"The Charlottesville event could be a potentially historic showcase of hate, bringing together more extremists in one place than we have seen in at least a decade," said Oren Segal, director of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, a group that monitors and combats anti-Semitism.
McAuliffe, a Democrat, said many of the people at the rally will "express viewpoints many people, including me, find abhorrent. As long as that expression is peaceful, that is their right."
He said he had given security forces instructions to act quickly and decisively if violence breaks out.
Units of the Virginia National Guard will be placed on stand-by, he added.
On July 8 a few dozen Ku Klux Klan marchers gathered in Charlottesville to protest plans to remove the statue of Lee. But they were outnumbered by hundreds of jeering counter protestors.
This time the extreme right hopes to have a stronger showing thanks to the presence of various leaders of the "alt-right" movement that has been emboldened by Donald Trump's ascent to the White House.