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White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists take part the night before the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists march with tiki torchs through the University of Virginia campus, Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: Zach D. Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

White nationalists march with torches in Charlottesville, Va.

Hundreds of white marchers with blazing torches clashed briefly with counter protesters on the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia on Friday, the eve of a rally planned by thousands of white nationalists, media said.

The events highlight a persistent debate in the U.S. South over the display of the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the rebel side in the Civil War, fought over the issue of slavery.

The marchers chanted as made their way from Nameless Field through the sprawling campus to the school’s Thomas Jefferson statue, where they were met by counter protesters, an affiliate of NBC news said.

Both groups threw punches and pushed each other as police arrived to break up the clash. A chemical irritant was sprayed into the crowd, NBC29.com reported.

At least one person was arrested and several on campus were treated for minor injuries, the Daily Progress newspaper said.

The clash came the night before an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 people were to attend a Unite the Right rally to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park on Saturday. (Reuters)

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