The Ku Klux Klan has been approved to hold a protest rally at the Statehouse next month against removing the Confederate battle flag, with the group calling accused mass murderer Dylann Roof a “young warrior.”

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan applied for the permit last week to hold a rally for 100 to 200 people on July 18 on the north side of the Statehouse.

That’s where the Confederate battle flag presently flies.

Brian Gaines, spokesman for the S.C. Budget and Control Board, said the state provides rally space at the Statehouse site when space is available or previously not reserved.

The move was not endorsed by Gov. Nikki Haley. “This is our state, and they are not welcome,” she said in a statement issued by her press office.

In its application permit, the Klan lists equipment needs as a podium and public address access. The group is headquartered out of Pelham, N.C.

Robert Jones, grand dragon for the group, said on Monday that the Klan is a civil rights organization dedicated to white culture and history as symbolized by the rebel banner.

During a phone interview, Jones gave words of support for Roof, saying he erred in going after black people while they worshipped. On the Klan group’s telephone answering machine is a recorded message that refers to Roof as a warrior.

Roof, 21, of Eastover is charged with nine counts of murder in the June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church.

All the victims were black; Roof is white, and has reportedly promoted white supremacist activity in his writings and on the Internet.

Officials have labeled the attack a hate crime.

“He was heading in the right direction; wrong target,” Jones said. “He should have actually aimed at the African-American gang-bangers, the ones who are selling the drugs to white youth, the ones who are robbing and raping every chance they get.”

The rally is slated from 3 to 5 p.m. July 18.

In the wake of the killings, Haley last week called for bringing down the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds, something that is up to lawmakers. Legislators are expected to return to Columbia next month to make the flag a priority.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.